LA American Indian College Education Initiative

Walking Shield, Inc. and its community partners would like to create the LA American Indian College Education Initiative to increase high school and college graduation rates among American Indians living in Los Angeles. This “pipeline to college” program would begin working with students in middle school and provide close mentorship through high school and college.

Walking Shield staff and volunteers would help American Indian students achieve academic success and prepare them for college by providing an array of services. Students would receive tutoring, financial aid as well as consultation on college admission procedures, college tours, time management skills, good study habits and other forms of close mentoring to keep them on track to earn their college degree. Walking Shield will also maintain relationships with the students’ parents to help them understand, appreciate and support a college education for their children. The $100,000 grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation, LA2050 will excel the efforts of the LA American Indian College Education Initiative and provide a strong base for American Indian students in Los Angeles to prepare and succeed in college.

The LA American Indian College Education Initiative complies with Walking Shield’s mission to improve the quality of life for American Indian families by coordinating programs that provide educational assistance, humanitarian aid, healthcare, shelter and community development. Walking Shield, established in 1986, has helped American Indian students around the country realize their dream of obtaining a college education and bettering their lives, families and communities.

The need for the LA American Indian College Education Initiative addresses a significant challenge. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the college graduation rate of American Indians is 38 percent. This rate is 17 percent lower than the national average and significantly lower than other ethnic groups.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

In 2012, Walking Shield provided more than $200,000 in college scholarships to 86 students attending colleges and universities mainly in California. The goal for 2013 is to award more than $300,000. This year, an amount of at least $55,000 has been specifically designated for American Indian students living in Los Angeles. This amount can increase based on the number of students in Los Angeles eligible for our scholarships.

Besides helping students earn their bachelor’s degrees, graduate students working on their master’s and doctorate degrees also receive support.

An emergency fund has been provided by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians to assist these students in covering the costs of tuition rate increases, parking fees, books and tutoring. The goal is to elevate the heavy financial burden of higher education in order to allow students to fulfill their dreams of receiving a college degree. These services are making a difference in improving college graduation rates among the American Indian community in California and around the country.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Our partners include the College Access Foundation of California, Los Angeles Unified School District, Southern California Edison, California Community Foundation (LA County), the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, United American Indian Involvement (UAII),Teaching, Tribal TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and the Mentoring Indian Tarahat (TAMIT)

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Walking Shield will routinely survey students to monitor and record overall retention rates and academic performance. Indicators such as GPA, attendance and extra curricular activities will be closely tracked through ongoing engagements with the students and their families. Data on college preparation, enrollment retention and graduation rates among American Indian students will be the major factor in measuring the success of the program.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2008, 155,010 American Indians live in Los Angeles. Los Angeles led all of the nation's counties in the number of people of this racial category. The LA American Indian College Education Initiative will help American Indian students achieve academic success middle school through college for the purpose of becoming successful and positive community roles models in Los Angeles.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

There would be a new generation of optimistic American Indians working in schools, businesses, schools, universities and civic organizations as leaders, mentors, teachers and professors. They will represent their heritage and culture with pride as they move forward contributing to the exciting innovations of a vibrant 2050.