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Tribal High School Students Connect with College
United Tribes Launches Dual Enrollment Program
14 December 2011

BISMARCK (UTN) - “It was a great way to start a group of students on their journey into higher education and kick-off the new program.”

      That’s how Julie Desjarlais describes the launch of a dual enrollment program at United Tribes Technical College.

      Desjarlais is UTTC’s Online Outreach and Training Coordinator. She and her team in the United Tribes Educational Outreach program hosted high school students for a two-day campus visit December 8-9.

UTTC Online Outreach and Training Coordinator Julie Desjarlais, at left, with UTTC Registrar Joey McLeod.

      “Our first enrolled class was ‘FIRST CLASS!,’” says Desjarlais. “The students conducted themselves as high achievers with dignity and class. It was a wonderful experience for them and their school advocates.”

      Dual enrollment involves students receiving instruction from two separate, academic institutions. In this case, students from three different tribes traveled hundreds of miles to Bismarck to check-out the program and become enrolled in a tribal college. The inaugural cohort involved students from Turtle Mountain Community High School, Belcourt, ND, and St. John High School (both Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa); Four Winds High School (Spirit Lake Tribe); and Tiospa Zina High School, Sisseton, SD (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate).

      Dual enrollment proves advantageous for most students. It allows them to ease the transition from high school to college and get a head start on a college career. There is evidence that it also promotes high school graduation and later improves persistence in remaining in college.

      The United Tribes program began by enrolling 33 students for Spring Semester 2012. To qualify, each must have a 3.0 GPA or better. The participating schools are required to appoint an advocate, or liaison, to work directly with the students and coordinate the instruction they take online from UTTC.

UTTC dual enrollment students from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

      While at United Tribes, the high school students toured the campus and became familiar with their electronic connection to college during an online orientation in the college’s computer lab. They were briefed by college staff members about enrolling, registration and financial aid. They heard from other Native American high school students in a series of videos funded by the North Dakota College Access Network and North Dakota University System. And they met with United Tribes President David M. Gipp, who said he was delighted to see so many students from the different schools on campus.

      UTTC plans to continue its educational outreach by visiting predominantly Native schools in the region and offering online dual enrollment. The program allows high school students to bank credits, providing an incentive to finish high school and make the transition to college.

Sisseton-Wahpeton dual enrollment student Kessa Mireau, at left, with advocate Amy Roth.

      “The goal of dual enrollment is to help make the transition as stress-free and seamless as possible,” says Desjarlais. “It’s a real opportunity for the students and their high schools.”

      It’s also an opportunity for the college. UTTC hopes the experience will lead students to choose to continue at the college by pursuing an online education or enrolling as a traditional college student.

      “But even if they choose to stay in their community and enroll in a local tribal college or another college of their choice, it’s all good,” says Desjarlais. “The colleges will get well-informed, confident students, with a jump start on their post-secondary education. Everyone benefits.”

UTTC dual enrollment students from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

      The United Tribes Educational Outreach team works under the direction of Russell Swagger, VP Student and Campus Services, and includes: Monte Schaff, Educational Outreach Director; Chris Baillie, Web Developer; and Julie Desjarlais, Online Outreach and Training Coordinator. Major funding for the program, including the kick-off event, was provided by the North Dakota College Access Network. For more information contact Julie Desjarlais 701-255-3285 x 1374, jdesjarlais@uttc.edu.


UTTC Educational Outreach Director Monte Schaff with dual enrollment students in the college’s computer lab.

Montoya Smith, left, and Taniesha Rainbow, both from Four Winds High School (Spirit Lake Tribe), in the United Tribes computer lab December 9.


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