Native American Program Making a Difference

Native American Salmon Bake at COCCAt COCC, a thriving Native American program is making a difference in the lives of students.

The program provides both academic support services as well as broad enrichment opportunities for COCC's Native American students. The program currently serves 244 students.

For some students, it is the academic support services provided by the program that turn the dream of college into a reality. From registration assistance to academic advising, services are specifically designed to help Native American students transition to, and succeed in, a college environment.

"When students come to COCC it's not about 'what do I want to be,' it's about 'what can I become in order to return to my community and make it a better place to live,'" stated Gina Ricketts, Native American Program Coordinator.

In addition to college-specific services, the program provides formal and informal opportunities for students to support each other in achieving their academic goals. Each month the program hosts luncheons called "which'oh:ne," which means "we are helping one another." For students looking for more organized engagement on campus there is the First Nations Student Union (FNSU) club. The club, which meets weekly, holds potlucks, hosts guest speakers and organizes the yearly Salmon Bake on the Bend Campus.f

"Gina has been a big influence, as well as all the staff at the Madras campus, on my having the courage and self-esteem to continue my education," said Elfreda Mitchell, a COCC Native American student.

Regular collaboration with the Warm Springs Department of Education has been an important part of the program's success and has generated outreach services to local high school students. Each month, high school seniors from Warm Springs are offered courses in topics ranging from college success skills, test taking strategies and college textbook reading. Students who participate in these classes meet one of the eligibility requirements for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (CTWS) scholarships.

Another joint venture with CTWS for high school seniors is the Summer Bridge program. During the Summer Bridge, math and writing classes are offered to Warm Springs seniors to boost their skills before attending college.

For more information, contact Gina Ricketts at or 541-383-3782.