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How the Native American Cultural Center is encouraging students at CSU

At the Native American Cultural Center, students can gain leadership, reach out to the community and become closer to their Native American heritage.

The program reaches out not only to students who identify as Native American, but anyone who wants to get involved in leadership programs for CSU and the Fort Collins community.

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“People assume that when they hear about any of the cultural centers, the only thing they think about is the cultural programming side,” said Ty Smith, director of the NACC. “But they don’t realize the other types of outreach and programming we do in regards to student retention and recruitment and the outreach to younger generations.”

The focus areas for the center are recruitment, retention, community outreach and education.

“I looked at the challenges I faced growing up, and we use that to help us see what kind of programs or services we should implement and put in place for native students,” Smith said.

The outreach program is busy with projects year around, helping students to develop their leadership and mentoring skills to give back to future generations.

“We offer a variety of services that promote academics, retention and student success as well as identity development,” said Tiffani Kelly, the assistant director for the NACC. “We really focus on what we define as a leader in our society and how that applies to our community.”

The center is involved with powwows, K-12 camps and research retreats to Estes Park to promote science and renewable energy. They also help students get involved in the Native American and Pacific Islander Research Experience (NAPIRE) for current students to focus on research in Costa Rica through collaboration with the Pacific Islander Center on campus.

“We do a K-12 outreach program where we take current students and have them talk about their college experience,” Kelly said. “The younger kids can learn about CSU as a whole but then also our office, so they know that when they come to CSU they can have a space and a community already on campus to help them feel connected to CSU.”

The center provides a friendly community for students on campus.

“The NACC has allowed me to feel comfortable and important because as a minority on a big campus, I feel just part of the background of the picture,” said Ashley Carlisle, a sophomore CSU student involved with the program. “But in the NACC office, I feel like the ‘eye-catcher’ of the picture.”

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Students who become involved in NACC help others receive mentoring advice and tutoring. They also help students with transitions from their native culture into one of a college lifestyle.

“The NACC affects students in a positive way that allows them to feel comfortable, safe, studious and important, all confined in one office,” Carlisle said. “The main aspect I emphasize about the office is the many friendly and encouraging faces throughout the office, from the staff to the students.”

Collegian Reporter Dallas Head can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @head94head.

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