Creating Pathways that Lead to Success for Colorado’s Native American Students

September 1, 2015


Photo courtesy of Sam Green, Cortez Journal

September 1, 2015

CEI has launched a new project that aims to increase college readiness and success for Native American students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). The Four Corners Native American STEM Pipeline Project provides tribal communities with opportunities to compete for the state’s high-wage, high-skill STEM occupations while increasing the pipeline of Native American STEM teachers to make lasting cultural shifts in their communities.

Southwest Colorado is home to over 1,200 Native American students attending nine local school districts. Native Americans disproportionately graduate high school academically underprepared for postsecondary education, especially in STEM fields. Less than 12 percent of Native American students take biology, physics, and chemistry in high school.

“A key aspect of the pipeline project brings CEI’s Colorado Legacy Schools (CLS) program to the Durango, Ignacio, and Montezuma-Cortez school districts beginning in the 2016-17 school year,” said CEI STEM director Angela Baber. “The CLS program has been proven to dramatically increase the enrollment and success of minority and low-income students in AP classes. Nearly 500 Native American students are expected to participate in the program.”

Most of these students will enroll at Fort Lewis College in Durango, which provides tuition-free education to Native American students. As part of the project, a Native American STEM cohort will be created at the college to provide ongoing academic support. The goal is for 90 percent of the cohort to graduate with 50 percent of them to earn STEM degrees.

Another goal of the program encourages a third of Native American students to enroll in the college’s Master of Arts in Teaching program in science or math that lead to student teaching opportunities in their home communities. The program supports the creation of a pipeline of Native American STEM teachers that will bring more Native American students into STEM classes and careers.

Partners in the project include the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado, Fort Lewis College, Southwest Colorado Community College, San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services, the Durango, Ignacio, and Montezuma-Cortez school districts, the Clinton Global Initiative, and CEI.