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Ilisagvik students attend American Indian conference

May 4th, 2014 | By Sarah B. Martinsen Print this article   Email this article  

Iḷisaġvik College recently had the honor of attending the 2014 American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) Student Conference held in Billings, Montana from March 16-18. Two Iḷisaġvik students, Alison Bankston of Barrow and Laura Nicolai of Akiak, were selected to attend the conference based on their outstanding achievements in their field of study.

The two students were accompanied by Iḷisaġvik's residential advisor (and sophomore student), Simon Aina. In addition to their demonstrated commitment in their respective fields of study, all three Iḷisaġvik representatives have recently been recipients of other honors as well: Bankston and Aina were recently featured as the College Web site's "student spotlights," for demonstrating their commitment in the Allied Health program as well as their involvement in extracurricular activities. Nicolai was selected for being the recipient of the Coca-Cola scholarship through the American Indian College Fund.

In addition to receiving scholarship awards, the students were able to partake in different types of competition that were integral to this year's AIHEC conference. The various competitions (sports events, knowledge bowl, speech competition, journal writing, art and film contest, etc.) enabled the students to learn the traditional values of integrity, compassion, and fortitude; and allowed participants to not only excel but also empower them to set their dreams and aspirations high.

On the eve of the conference, a poetry slam was held to welcome the students, as well as kick off the competitions and games. Aina, Bankston and Nicolai listened to the poems and pieces of literature that students wrote minutes before the competition had started. As an introduction to get everyone comfortable with one another, an ice breaker was conducted for the students called "tee shirt exchange" where students literally exchanged shirts from their local tribal college as well as shared their interests, studies and degrees which they are pursuing.

On March 16, the conference began with the Flag Parade, which introduced every participating tribal college. Groups of students from each college lined up with their flags and banners and walked through the room. Aina, Bankston and Nicolai were proud to carry Iḷisaġvik's flag, and represent Alaska's Only Tribal College.

The keynote speaker for the opening ceremony was Tuff Harris, a member of the Crow Nation, and a former NFL player who played for the Edmonton Eskimos, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, and Miami Dolphins.

Later, Nicolai and Bankston attended the Student of the Year and Coca-Cola Scholarship Banquet. During the banquet, Dr. Cheryl Crazy Bull, president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, conveyed message about the importance of tribal colleges for future generations.

"I really got a lot of out attending this conference," Nicolai stated. "It's incredible to see all the efforts that are in motion to perpetuate Native American culture in the college setting, and it feels great to be a part of that!" College President Pearl Brower stated, "We are so proud of our Iḷisaġvik representatives that attended the AIHEC Student Conference this year. It is incredibly rewarding to witness our hard-working students being recognized for their perseverance, and wonderful that they have the opportunity to strengthen their cultural identity through this event."

For information about programs and opportunities at Iḷisaġvik College, please contact 852.3333 or 1.800.478.7337 (ext. 1799).


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