Ho-Chunk students visit colleges during College Expo

By Marlon WhiteEagle

On May 3, Ho-Chunk high school students ascended upon UW-Baraboo/Sauk County to visit representatives from Wisconsin colleges and universities at Fifth Annual Youth and Family College Expo.
The college expo was hosted by the Ho-Chunk Nation Higher Education Division.
“Our department worked to make a holistic experience for the family in that we had programming for the parents and the young people,” Higher Education Division Manager Marcus Lewis said.
“And parents were invited to visit the college booths, too, if they decided they wanted to go back to school.  The family unit definitely enhances the experience.”
The schools invited were University of Wisconsin two year campuses, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Stevens Point, Madison Area Technical College, and Northcentral Technical College. Each school offers multi-cultural or Native American outreach offices.
All but UW-Oshkosh and UW-Stevens Point had Native American staff or advisors on hand for the event.
Barbara Martin and Sandra Blumer were the representatives from Madison Area Technical College. Martin is a student recruiter. Blumer is Ho-Chunk and an academic advisor who focuses on student retention for the school.
“We appreciate the invite to be here to present a wide range of opportunities and many programs. We want to encourage students to explore and we brought tools to coach them along. It’s great to see all the parents out to support their students,” Martin said.
“Since Sandra is a Ho-Chunk, she’s fully aware of how best to assist students through the Nation’s funding process and encourage them into the higher education.”
Aaron Birdbear works for the School of Education as an American Indian Curriculum Service Coordinator at UW-Madison. Birdbear is from the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Dine nations.
“It’s really important to attend college fairs within native nations and Native American communities because we’re always encouraging leadership development of native peoples. If we look at some of the elected tribal officials of the Ho-Chunk Nation today, such as Rep. Henning Garvin and Rep. David Greendeer, these are people who developed a lot of their leadership capacities through education,” Birdbear said.
“So I think it’s just really important to continue to encourage education because the capacities for leadership are only deepened by building a well-rounded base of knowledge. And higher education, whether it be two-year or four-year institutions, does just that. It helps us understand the world better. It helps us understand ourselves better.
“That’s why we come to native nation college fairs, because native nations really need their talent base developed. They need qualified and capable leaders. And we believe education is an important pathway for leadership,” Birdbear said.
This event brings young people together with some of our university partners in the hopes of building connections and relationships that will benefit the students in the future when they go to college, Lewis said.
“The best part of this event is that it brings people together in the shared purpose of education.  Believe it or not, but we rarely see the students we work with due to distance.  We provide scholarships to students all over the United States, many of whom never make it home to Wisconsin, so we never get to meet them,” Lewis said.
The Higher Education Division’s goal is to make a positive impact on the students.  They have received good feedback from students over the years and focus on planting a seed within the students to continue on their educational journey in post-secondary education.
“If our event provides an opportunity for a Ho-Chunk young person to interact with a representative from a university or technical college and that interactions makes the student think “Hey, I can do this” then we’ve done our jobs,” Lewis said.
“Our students have so many wonderful opportunities for education that are not available to their non-Ho-Chunk classmates.  We are truly fortunate,” he said.