Standing Rock Leader Earns Master’s in Education

Through the Scholarship service of PWNA’s American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) program, 47-year-old Donnette received funds to finish her master’s degree in education in May 2023 on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. As a nontraditional student, Donnette left her mark at Sitting Bull College and inspired other students to do the same. Thanks to her AIEF scholarship, Donnette will use her degree to make real, lifelong changes for her community. “Education means so much to me … A lot of people grew up in poverty here, and even getting into college is such an accomplishment.”

Standing Rock Leader Earns Master’s in Education

Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) supports leadership development for Native students who want to make a greater impact in their tribal communities. Thanks to the Scholarship service of PWNA’s American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) program, 47-year-old Donnette received funds to finish her master’s degree in education in May 2023 at Sitting Bull College on the Standing Rock Reservation.

Donnette previously earned an associate degree in criminal justice and a bachelor’s degree in general studies but then took time away to raise her daughter and care for her parents in their final years. While at school, Donnette worked two part-time jobs. In fact, 35% of current AIEF scholars work 20 hours per week during the academic term.

The youngest of three, Donnette was taught by her parents to have humility and fortitude to keep working no matter the circumstance. “Everything we do, we need to create love, especially on the reservation. A lot of people grew up in poverty here, and even getting into college is such an accomplishment.”

As a student, Donnette traveled to Washington, D.C. to gather support for the college’s expansion. Thanks to her perseverance, the school recently added a few new buildings. She also started and took leadership positions in several school organizations involving education, science, wellness and the Two-Spirit community. She and a team of students even won a national business plan competition. In addition, Donnette ran the school’s food pantry and organized meals for the student government to cook. This was an incredible resource for students considering there is no school cafeteria, and the town has limited dining options.

“Education means so much to me. I was at school nine hours a day plus all the student leadership. I’m showing others that you can change your life around and do better for your people.” Outside of school, Donnette serves on the board of directors for Wozu, a local program focused on land, culture and wellness. “We give chicken eggs away, make ribbon skirts, certify archers and teach language. We’re building a 13-mile bike path by the river to keep youth active.”

Donnette has already done amazing things for her Fort Yates, North Dakota community. Now with her advanced degree, she can serve her people even better.

With her degree in hand, Donnette plans to keep working at the college as an outreach coordinator. “I need to get back on my feet because being a student is hard. I needed eight scholarships this semester, and I’m thankful for all of them. It’s hard to find graduate scholarships and hardly any for education.”

After one year, her goal is to become a teacher or administrator to help local youth.Sitting Bull College has given me the opportunity to get an education and leadership skills to help my people and provide a better future for all those around me.”

Donnette and other Native students can make big differences in their communities through higher education. Donate to AIEF to help future scholars get started on their path.

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