Morongo awards thousands in college, graduate scholarships

MORONGO INDIAN RESERVATION – In its continuing effort to provide opportunity to the next generation of tribal leaders, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians has awarded four Native American students from across California with $40,000 in college and graduate school scholarships this year.

The 10th annual Rodney T. Mathews Jr. Scholarship is unique among tribal scholarships because it is open to any enrolled member of the more than 100 federally recognized tribes in California.

“Over the past decade, the Rodney T. Mathews Jr. Scholarship has provided $340,000 to more than 30 Indian students as part of Morongo’s continuing effort to reverse the trends that have left Native Americans as the most underrepresented group in colleges and universities,” said Tribal Chairman Robert Martin. “It’s heartening to see that so many of the students who have received our support are coming full circle and putting their expertise and knowledge to use to improve the lives of Native American communities.”

American Indians and Alaskan Natives comprise less than 1% of the nation’s college students, the lowest college enrollment rate of any ethnic group, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Similarly, only 15% of American Indians hold bachelor’s degrees, fewer than any ethnic group in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Each winner received a $10,000 scholarship. The 2014 recipients are:

·        Farrah Ferris of the Hoopa Valley Tribe. Ferris attends the University of Southern California. She is majoring in social work with a minor in American Indian studies. She eventually hopes to earn a master’s in social work, and become a licensed clinical social worker for Native Americans.

·        Aryana Henthorne of the Sherwood Valley Rancheria. Henthorne attends the University of Hawaii, Hilo. She is majoring in astronomy with a minor in biology, and aspires to become a surgeon and serve on her reservation.

·        Michele Nelson of the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians. Nelson attends Arizona State University. Her major is American Indian studies with a minor in business, and she aspires to work in tribal governance and economic development on her reservation.

·        Elizabeth Rios of the Cahuilla Band of Indians. Rios attends the University of California, Riverside. She will be working toward a degree in Native American studies. She hopes to eventually earn a PhD in anthropology and serve on her tribal council.

“I never would have been able to go to USC without this scholarship,” Ferris said. “And the fact that Morongo gives back so generously inspires me to give back and continue to build up Indian Country in my career as a social worker.  A simple thank doesn’t convey my immense appreciation.  Our Hupa language expresses it better:  ts’ehdiyah niwho:ng-xw wha ’a:wilaw means thanks ‘in a good way.’ Morongo has helped not just me, but my family, my tribe and our tribal communities.”

“Morongo’s scholarship program is rekindling tribal customs and traditions by supporting education and addressing the needs of our tribal communities,” Nelson said. “I am grateful for support that enables me to continue my writing and research in American Indian policies and tribal businesses.”

“Morongo’s scholarship program not only assists Native American students financially, but also acts as a support system,” Rios said. “Receiving this scholarship also reinforces my desire to come back and work for local tribes, which have given so much to me.”

The scholarship program honors the late Rodney T. Mathews Jr., a Morongo tribal member and Hastings Law School graduate who passed away in 2004 after serving as a judge pro tem for more than a decade.

Scholarship applicants are considered based on their academic success and community service.  Candidates must be full-time students at an accredited college or university, complete 60 hours with a designated California Indian agency and be actively involved in the Native American community.

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