Danielle Steele, who serves as a Division Chair for the School of Humanities at Georgia Highlands College (GHC), was recently selected as a Rising Native Graduate Coach through the Native Forward Scholars Fund.
For Steele, this is a chance to give back to the Native American community and to the organization that helped her as a student. She is an alumna of the Native Forward Scholars Fund, previously known as the American Indian Graduate Center.
“Without help from the organization, I would not have been able to complete my own education,” Steele said. “Being in Georgia, where there are no federally recognized tribes and fewer Native people than in other places like my home state of Oklahoma, I have a harder time finding ways to help other First Americans, so the fact that I can do this virtually and it’s something I feel knowledgeable about was a big draw.”
Serving as an Academic Coach, Steele will mentor a third- or fourth-year undergraduate Native American student as they apply to graduate school. The mentorship includes helping the student to develop goals, make academic choices and apply to graduate school.
Native Forward also puts on workshops throughout the year for both Rising Native and other scholarship students. In her roles of alumna and coach, Steele may participate in these panels that cover a variety of topics related to Native students, such as how to stay connected to your family and culture while away at college.
Steele said when Native Forward was originally founded in 1966, there were only 13 Native Americans in graduate programs in this country.
“For a vast majority of Native students going to graduate school, we are the first generation to do so,” she said. “What I hope is to serve as a connection and become part of a networking group for the student much like their non-Native peers may have in parental, familial, or other close relations: someone who has been there and done that and can share my experience and understand what they are going through.”
Steele said in addition to getting to help another Native American and, therefore, helping the community, she also will get the chance to meet and work with other Native Americans who are professionals, all while supporting an organization that contributed to her success.
Programming will run from October 2022 to July 2023.