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Seven Native American professionals discussed issues facing Native American students Monday, May 13, 2019, in the Cultural Engagement Center at Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa.

The program is a part of the Natives Guiding Natives grant from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) and the Lumina Foundation.

The panel discussion included Sara Bell, Youth Pastor/Business Owner from Ponca City; Dani DeRoin, Records Administrator for the Otoe-Missouria Tribal Education Department; Sarah Nelson, Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma Education and Training Director; Dillon Moore, Table Games Supervisor; James Bible, Slots Manager for 7 Clans Casino; Lisa Bible, Tribal Education Advocate for Frontier Public Schools; and Kelli Dollarhide, Ponca City United Way Volunteer.

Topics ranged from the most influential people in the panel’s lives, challenges they faced as students, their accomplishments, advice for Native American students, and what colleges can do to assist Native American students.

Regarding ways that colleges and universities can assist Native American students is to be more involved with the students.

“Get to know the students better,” said Moore. “Building those relationships is so important.”

“This facility (Cultural Education Center) is an awesome place,” Bell said. “There needs to be more places for students to come for assistance and to feel more comfortable on campus. Also, have more Native American instructors.”

James Bible agreed.  “Native Americans need to have a place where they feel more comfortable,” he said.

“I think it’s important for NOC faculty and staff to help students navigate their issues and provide help,” said Dollarhide. “To answer a couple questions and let them know where to get help is so important.”

What advice do they have for students?

“Don’t give up,” Nelson said. “There are always going to be challenges, issues are always going to come up. Stay the course.”

Lisa Bible said an important factor is to take care of yourself mentally and physically.

“Take care of the inner self as well as the physical body,” she said. “You have to be strong mentally to handle school, work, and all the issues that come up. Health is so important.”

Don’t procrastinate,” said DeRoin. “Stay on top of things so that the stress doesn’t become overwhelming. Learn to manage things as they come up and not wait until the last minute.”

“Get out of your comfort zone,” James Bible said. “Raise your hand in class, sit toward the front, and get involved in class discussions.”

“Find a mentor,” Moore said. “Find people that have been there before and learn from them. Use their experiences to help you at school.

“Be good to people,” Bell said. “Opportunities have come my way because I was good to people.”

What challenges did the panel face as a college student?

“Being a mother and trying to go to school was a huge challenge,” said Lisa Bible. “Fortunately, my family was a huge help.”

“I was also a single mother,” said Nelson. “I had a family and a job. I quit once, then went to the University Center in Ponca City but I stayed with it. I am so proud of the CEC here at NOC where students can get assistance.”

Moore said his study habits were poor.
“I went from a small high school then to OSU and that was tough,” he said. “I was totally lost at a big school. I couldn’t find the balance between school and other things. It took a while for me to find the help I needed and at that same time to organize myself where I could succeed.”

Who was the most influential person in your life?

“Family, for sure,” said Dollarhide. “I had so much support from my family and from NOC. It’s so important to get that support.”