CHALLENGE OF AIII
Indian country does not share in the bounty of the United States. More American Indians live in poverty. Unemployment among American Indians on reservations is at 49 percent and the median income of American Indian households is lower than that of the total population. In health, American Indians have a 291 percent greater incidence of diabetes; a 91 percent greater suicide rate; a 24 percent higher infant mortality rate; and a 638 percent greater rate of alcoholism-related deaths. In education, high school graduation rates for Americans Indians are 51 percent and only 46 percent for American Indian males. Only twelve percent of American Indians who start college finish within six years of graduating high school. American Indian 4th and 8th grade students scored lower on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading and mathematical assessments than their national counterparts.
On average, approximately 170,000 American Indians are enrolled in US post-secondary institutions; and yet, between 1995 and 2004, the annual number of baccalaureate degrees in engineering and the hard sciences awarded to American Indians barely increased, from 894 to 1,504. This is equivalent to only two new graduates per year for each of the 562 federally recognized tribes. This represents an average growth of only 68 graduates per year. We know that most of these graduates do not return to tribal communities. Even if they did return, this rate is still too low to produce the workforce necessary to address the challenges in tribal communities.
These are all stark numbers and they demonstrate a dire need, a need for American Indian leaders and professionals who have the knowledge and skills to advance and improve tribal quality of life. The American Indian Institute for Innovation has a solution.
The American Indian Institute for Innovation intends to model an educational program based upon the American Indian Honors Program (AIHP). AIHP is a six-week summer residential pre-college enrichment program for reservation-based high school students. The program targets students and their families beginning in the eighth grade and follows them through high school. AIII leadership initiated this program in 1992 and the success rate is exceptional. Every alumnus is a high school graduate, where eighty-seven percent went on to post-secondary education and nine percent entered the military. Currently, 65 percent of program alumni have graduated from college or are still enrolled.
Building on the success and best practices of AIHP, the AIII model incorporates proven strategies that lead to student success.
The American Indian Institute for Innovation (AIII) proposes to develop a pre-eminent year-round residential, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) based educational opportunity for American Indians across the nation. The AIII model is unprecedented. This comprehensive, transformational institution will lead to sustainable change. It engages future leaders with rigorous curriculum, relevant real world experiences, and supportive mentor-based relationships in an environment infused with Indian culture.
AIII will establish partnerships with tribal communities focused on supporting their students though mentoring, internship and research experiences and cultural guidance. The AIII residential year-round model will educate student cohorts from the beginning high school years through the first-two years of college with a specific focus on creating American Indian professional leaders in STEM and health care to serve tribal communities.