WALLA WALLA, Wash.-- A recently forged partnership between Whitman College and the Nixyaawii Community School located on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation has received a financial jump-start in the form of a $25,000 grant from Washington Mutual Bank.


 The grant was given in honor of Benson Porter, a 1989 Whitman graduate and the executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Washington Mutual. It supports a program to study, evaluate and promote student progress at the new charter school while also encouraging students to see college as a real possibility. The grant includes $10,000 in scholarship money to help a Nixyaawii graduate attend Whitman College.


 The Nixyaawii School, with grades 9 through 12, was organized by the Confederated Tribes during the spring and summer of 2004 in response to disappointing graduation and retention rates of Native American students in local public schools. 


 Kay Fenimore-Smith, assistant professor of education at Whitman, was invited by the governing board to observe the school and to maintain a record of its development. She is conducting a research study to add to the body of knowledge that exists on charter schools as well as to improve her teaching at Whitman. After the veteran teacher spends her Fall 2005 sabbatical teaching at the Nixyaawii School, she will put her findings into a research paper in 2006 that she will share with the school and with educators nationwide.


 Whitman College has focused efforts on recruiting a more multicultural student body, said Kate Prael, director of admission at Whitman. The college hopes to develop a relationship with the students, families and teachers at the Nixyaawii School with a series of programs. The first event will take advantage of the college’s April 8 Spring Visitors Day, at which Nixyaawii juniors, their families and teachers will be guests of the college. Current Whitman students will act as guides and hosts.

  During spring semester 2006, Whitman admission officers will visit the Nixyaawii School to continue building relationships with students and teachers. They plan to conduct workshops to help students and teachers better understand the college application process, and  Nixyaawii students will be encouraged to apply for the College Horizons program. The program, a week-long summer course, targets Native American high school students around the country and helps them prepare for college. Whitman has hosted the program several times.


 Whitman plans to continue meeting with students and will repeat the process the following year. The college expects each successive year to build on the program’s progress and to increase the possibility of more students attending Whitman and other colleges.


CONTACT: Lenel Parish, Whitman College News Service, (509) 527-5156

Email: parishlj@whitman.edu