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NOC Mentoring Program Connects Native American Students with Professionals

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Sasha Gibson and Charlene Le have never met, but they have a close relationship.
Le mentors Gibson, an Osage student at Northern Oklahoma College. The mentorship program is part of NOC’s Native American Serving, Non-Tribal Institution grant.The mentorship program was developed to connect Native American students with Native professionals who have been successful in college. The mentors have been trained in culturally-responsive strategies to engage Native American students. The goal is to increase retention and graduation rates of Native American students.

NOC partnered with six area tribes— Kaw, Osage, Otoe-Missouria, Pawnee, Ponca, and Tonkawa—in response to meeting the needs of Native students. Last school year, over 65 percent of Native freshmen received coaching and mentoring.

Gibson said, “Charlene communicates by calling me most of the time, but periodically sends me a text.” Charlene makes sure Sasha is succeeding academically and offers suggestions of places to get assistance if she is not doing well.

Gibson does not need the academic assistance. She was the 2017 valedictorian of Woodland High School and has done well at NOC. She added, “NOC faculty has treated me with nothing but respect and kindness.”

Gibson continued, “Charlene encourages me to try my hardest, do my best, and stay on the straight and narrow. She genuinely cares if I do well in class and in life in general. She is very kind and helpful!”

Le, who is Osage, Pawnee, Kiowa, and Euchee, believes her main goal as a mentor is to be a trusted advisor and keep her mentee’s best interests in mind. She makes herself available to support and advise her group of 20 Native students when they need it, delivering support in a way that makes sense to the student.

Le says Gibson is special because, “Sasha strives at being the best student she can be. I really admire that about her. Not all students have that drive to complete their education and maintain good grades.”

“I enjoy encouraging Native American youth in becoming successful in college. Being open to sharing my mistakes, failures, and accomplishments is one of the biggest gifts I can give as a mentor. Not only is it helpful but it builds trust, gives them permission to share their own mistakes and accomplishments as well, which strengthens the mentoring relationship overall,” added Le.

Gibson is a Criminal Justice major who plans to transfer to Oklahoma State and major in Human Sciences. Le believes Gibson will be successful. “Sasha is a smart young lady who will go far in her career due to her determination to be successful,” bragged Le.

Le is one of ten Native American mentors who work with over 400 Native American students on three NOC campuses—Tonkawa, Enid, and Stillwater.

Le lives in Tulsa and works for the Gatesway Foundation, a non-profit that encourages independence and provides opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.

Sasha is the daughter of Irene Gibson and Todd Gibson of Fairfax.