From Wisconsin to California to Hawaii, some 31 working adults in American Indian, Native Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian communities are continuing their education online and working toward degrees that will better their lives and their communities with the AT&T-Western Governors University (WGU) Native American Scholarship Program.

The AT&T Foundation funded the first 30 of these scholarships with a $150,000 contribution in October 2010 to help members of Native American tribes, their spouses, and people living and working in Native American communities earn a college degree. With the first 30 scholarships having been funded, the Native American Scholarship Program will continue to be funded by WGU.

So far, the scholarships have gone to students in 14 states across the country to WGU students in 19 different degree programs, including bachelor's and master's degree programs in all four WGU online areas of study: Teacher Education, Business, Information Technology, and Health Professions, including Nursing.

WGU offers more than 50 accredited bachelor's, master's, and post-baccalaureate online degree programs through an online, competency-based academic model designed for adult learners who are motivated to continue their education. The flexible and self-driven programs make it easier to go back to school, especially for full-time employees, rural students without access to a physical campus, individuals with family and community responsibilities, and others for whom a traditional campus environment is not well-suited.

The 31 students who have received the Native American Scholarship come from diverse backgrounds and bring with them a variety of career and educational goals, many of them directly aimed at improving the lives of their families and the native communities they live and work in.

Among the recipients are: -- Amanda Winters , La Jara, Colorado, B.A. in Special Education (K-12): "With a degree in education, I hope to help improve the academic experience of students who are - like I was - at risk of not graduating," Winters said. She's a member of the Cherokee Nation and attended school in an environment where her cultural experiences and educational needs were not understood. "Although I do not live in a strictly Native American community, I do live in a rural area that has a diverse population of minority and socioeconomic groups that are considered to be at risk. I would also like to serve as an example of how low-achieving students can find the help they need to succeed in the dreams they have. Because someone believed in me, I was able to overcome my academic obstacles to earn a diploma and even go on to college. I was not incapable of educational success; I simply need a little encouragement and a different approach to the material." -- Cameron Hodson , Spanish Fork, Utah, Endorsement Preparation Program in Educational Leadership: Hodson's tribe was disbanded in the 1960s but was officially restored as a federally recognized tribe last year. "One of the first things our tribe wants to establish is a school, but we have very few members that have enough education or experience to do this," he said. "I have spent many years in education and I would love to lead our tribe in this effort. I know that the material taught in this program will be imperative to the success of our school and my many years of service in the tribe." -- Cord Rose, Puyallup, Washington, B.S. in Business-IT Management: Rose teaches a computer certification preparation course at the Muckleshoot Tribal College in Auburn, Washington. He has been asked to help shape the growth of the college's IT program. The growth will mean more teachers, and his manager plans to create a new position for him to manage those teachers, as well as to oversee a new on-site help desk. These promotions will require him to continue his education, and his WGU bachelor's degree will help get him there.

-- James Linderman , Cushing, Oklahoma, B.S. in IT-Security: Linderman's WGU program is just the start of his educational journey: He plans to follow it with a master's degree and perhaps other bachelor's degrees in other IT disciplines, all aimed at positioning him to help promote the language and culture of the Chickasaw Nation, of which he is a member. "I would like to develop a complete software package that will teach the language of my people to my people," he said. "At the same time I would like to incorporate lessons in the history and culture of the Chickasaw people so that Chickasaws know what it is to be Chickasaw." But that's not all he has in mind: His additional plans include helping to maintain the security of the Chickasaw Nation's web presence and IT infrastructure and lead by example to share the importance of an education with his people.

-- Jonathan Hatch , Snowflake, Arizona, B.S. in Business Management: Hatch is a member of the Wilton Rancheria band of Miwok Indians in California, though he is currently living in Arizona. He has a bachelor's degree in social work and works on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Whiteriver, Arizona, as the director for Eagledancer Youth and Family Services, a residential program for boys ages 8-18 who have been displaced due to neglect, abuse, mental health problems, and other reasons. Operating on the reservation enables the program to maximize family involvement in the boys' treatment and keep them close to their culture. His work is his passion and is why he went into social work, but he now wants to supplement that education with a business degree that will help him continue to grow and improve the program and realize the ideas he has to help the greater Native American youth population.

-- Michael Floyd , Tracyton, Washington, B.S. in Business Management: A member of the Sun'aq Native Alaskan tribe in Kodiak, Alaska, Floyd lives in Washington. "I have never had the opportunity to visit the tribe or my ancestral lands," he said. He is concerned about the lack of opportunity for Native Americans and Native Alaskans and especially many tribes' reliance on gambling, tobacco, and fireworks for their economic well-being. "Native Americans/Alaskans should not have to supply other people's vices to provide for their people," he said.

With his degree, he hopes to build an inn in Kodiak. "The lands are beautiful, and people should see them and enjoy them. I will employ and train Native Alaskans so that they can work at home or, if they choose to leave, will have marketable skills." He also wants to provide services to help Native Americans and Alaskans find information, advice, and education on starting their own businesses.

-- Tara Dowd , Spokane, Washington, MBA in Healthcare Management: Dowd is an Inupiaq Eskimo whose grandparents were from Kiana and Nome, Alaska. She's now living in Spokane, and she works for a small healthcare agency as the children and youth services coordinator in prevention. "Our community faces enormous obstacles in becoming a healthier community," she said. "We are the winners in all the loser categories in most health and social statistics. We have the highest rates of diabetes and heart disease; our women are most likely to die from breast cancer because we don't get checked often enough or at all. We have a high rate of depression, drug and alcohol addiction, and other mental health issues. We have the highest rates of infant and child deaths in Washington state. Many of these diseases and other problems can be prevented. I hope to be part of the solution with my degree from WGU." For more information on the WGU Native American Scholarship Program, visit or call 1-866-225-5948.

About Western Governors University Featured on NPR's "All Things Considered,"  theNBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, CNN's "Schools of Thought," and in The New York Times, WGU is the only university in the U.S. offering competency-based degree programs and the only nonprofit, fully online university with students in all 50 states. WGU offers 50 degree programs in Business, Education, Information Technology, and Health Professions, including Nursing. Since its inception in 1997, WGU has grown into a national institution, serving more than 30,000 students. WGU is self-sustaining on tuition of approximately $6,000 per 12-month year for most programs.

WGU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and nationally accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). WGU nursing programs have been accredited by the Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), and its B.S. in Health Informatics is accredited by CAHIIM (Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education). WGU's Teachers College is the first and only exclusively online provider of teacher education to receive accreditation for its teacher licensure programs from NCATE, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.

In 2011, WGU received its second 21st Century Award for Best Practices in Distance learning from the United States Distance Learning Association, (USDLA). In addition, WGU President Robert W. Mendenhall was recognized for his achievements in higher education when he received the 2010 McGraw Prize in Education.

On June 11, 2010, WGU Indiana was created by Governor Mitch Daniels as Indiana's eighth state university. WGU Washington was established by the Washington State Legislature on April 22, 2011.  On August 3, 2011, the state of Texas created WGU Texas. WGU Indiana, WGU Washington, and WGU Texas are state-endorsed and offer degree programs that are accredited through Western Governors University.

The university has earned the support of more than 20 leading corporations and foundations. They include institutions such as AT&T, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lilly Endowment, HCA, Hewlett-Packard, Lumina Foundation, Microsoft, Oracle, SunGard Higher Education, and Zions Bank. More information is available at or by calling 866.225.5948.

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