Education & Opportunity in Indian Country

Tom Brooks, Vice President, External & Legislative Affairs, AT&T
Nov 17, 2016 11:55 AM ET

November marks Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the diverse cultures, traditions and histories of Native Americans, as well as the important contributions of Native people to our communities and country. This month also presents the opportunity to raise awareness about the unique challenges Native Americans face.

Among these challenges is education. Native American students continue to have the lowest high school graduation rates of any demographic group in this country. In 2013-14, the Native high school graduation rate was 69.6 percent, compared to the national high school graduation rate of 82.3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

That’s why, more than 20 years ago, AT&T set out to help more Native American students graduate from high school and succeed in college and career. To commemorate Native American Heritage Month, we’re proud to further our commitment to Indian Country with more than $1 million in contributions that will connect Native youth to educational pathways to the 21st century workforce.  The contribution includes $600,000 to the American Indian College Fund (College Fund) and $450,000 to George Washington University (GW).

The College Fund will partner with tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) as well as local high schools located on or near reservations to connect Native students to programs and supportive services that will help them finish high school, persist in higher education, and thrive in the 21st century knowledge economy. With support from AT&T, the College Fund will be able to serve a greater number of American Indian high school students in Arizona, Nebraska and Oklahoma. This will help more students get a high school diploma, access postsecondary education, and learn about their language, culture, and history.

With support from AT&T, George Washington University will establish the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy, its first-ever politics and public policy center dedicated to indigenous learnings. The Center builds on AT&T’s long-time support of the university’s Native American Political Leadership and INSPIRE Pre-College Programs, which give Native students the chance to study in Washington D.C. and learn about relations between tribal governments and the federal government.

As a person of Native American descent, I’m personally proud to be a part of initiatives that improve Native communities’ quality of life by creating the leaders and workforce of tomorrow. Our latest collaborations with the College Fund and GW continue AT&T’s commitment to enhancing the education of Native American youth and opening doors for them to become leaders in their communities. Together, we can ensure that all students succeed — and that Indian Country is a place of limitless opportunity.