CoJMC professor presents scholarships to Native American studentsWednesday, May 23, 2018 - 10:15am
by Alli Inglebright
Professor Joe Starita presented five $1,500 scholarships to Native American children last week. The fund, the Chief Standing Bear Journey for Justice scholarship, was started by Starita four years ago as a way to help level the playing field for Native American children in Nebraska.
“My hope for the scholarship is that it gives them hope,” Starita said. “It gives them a chance to do something with their lives and get a foothold in American society.It allows them the economic stability and peace of mind that a job and a paycheck provides. Without that, life becomes a very slippery slope.”
Since starting the program, Starita has awarded 18 scholarships to students who are attending various colleges in the midwest. To qualify for the scholarship, students have to live in Nebraska, be a member of a recognized North American tribe, be on track to receive a high school diploma or GED certificate, be enrolled or plan to enroll in an accredited post-secondary educational program, demonstrate financial need and demonstrate leadership in their community.
The scholarship doesn’t place any restrictions on where or how students decide to pursue their post-secondary education. Students can attend a four-year university, community college or trade school.
“Last year I gave a scholarship to a South Sioux City student whose dream was to be a chef,” Starita said. “His scholarship has allowed him to go to a culinary institute.”
Starita, who is an accomplished author, funds the program through his book sales, speaking fees and private donations. His three books cover different topics related to Native American culture, which he gave 71 talks about last year. With each talk, he collects a speaking fee and participants have an opportunity to purchase his books. Those funds are funneled back into the CSB scholarship program.
“These types of programs are vital for Native American students for a variety of reasons, including historical trauma, poverty and loss of land and culture,” Starita said. “Native American students have the highest dropout rate of any ethnic group in America.”
Growing up in Nebraska, Starita was exposed to Native American culture at a young age. The culture and history clicked with him and hasn’t stopped clicking, he said.
“There are a good number of things we can learn from the Native American culture,” Starita said. “Native culture is a ‘we’ based culture. America, on the other hand, is an ‘I’ based culture. It’s often about ‘I’ and not about ‘we.’ But you survive over time by being a ‘we’ culture, not an ‘I’ culture.”