Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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Choctaw Nation provides extensive scholarship database to members at no cost

Higher education is expensive. Whether students are seeking enrollment in four-year universities, junior colleges or vocational training, funding is a constant obstacle. What if all the tools needed to overcome these roadblocks were put at your feet, for free?

Recognizing the substantial benefits a degree of any persuasion can bestow upon the life of a graduate, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) has provided a valuable tool with which to combat rising tuition costs often deferring potential students from their school of choice, or even the pursuit of higher education in general.

Choctaw Nation’s Scholarship Advisement Program (SAP) has created a scholarship search engine that debuted in 2009. This unique database is an exclusive research database pioneered by SAP available to each member of the Choctaw Nation, completely free.

Operating much like popular scholarship search engines, the Choctaw scholarship database will intake information about a user and tailor a list of scholarships applicable to their demographic information and desired field of study.

What distinguishes this database from comparable mainstream services is it completely foregoes solicitation or ad-based funding. Once hopeful recipients create a username and complete a questionnaire allowing the program to customize the search results, all available funding is displayed and ready for the user to apply – no email ads, spam or selling of contact information to third-parties.

A prime example of the database enabling a potential student to reach their goals is Jessie Kuykendall, a Tulsa native with a Master’s in Global Communication from George Washington University and Bachelor’s in International Studies from Baylor University. During her search for graduate programs at the 2009 Ivy League and Friends event hosted annually by SAP, Kuykendall learned of the newly created database.

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Jessie Kuykendall with her brother, James
at her graduation from George Washington University.

“I spent my Christmas break that year scouring through the database, which I found easy to use and helpful for locating opportunities,” Kuykendall stated. In her search, she discovered a Pickering Fellowship which would have otherwise gone unnoticed. “It is safe to say I would not have known about this incredible opportunity without the scholarship database.”

The Pickering Fellowship granted Kuykendall considerable support in her graduate study. As a portion of the fellowship, she interned in Washington, D.C., in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and in the Political Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She was also awarded $40,000 annually to cover tuition and various costs of her graduate degree.

According to Kuykendall, the fellowship is a cooperative endeavor of U.S. Department of State and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation designed to help bring in diverse groups to the Foreign Service who have been historically underrepresented and have financial need. The Pickering Fellowship is an exceptional opportunity cataloged by the database – where size and term-length of opportunities vary.

The database is not only for those applying to graduate school, as it boasts all types of funding applicable to higher education. Choctaw high school students are encouraged to get a head start on funding; those in college can benefit from discovering money for the next semester and high school students can begin looking for continual funding. Parents are welcome to be involved in the search, as they can save notable opportunities to which the student can later apply.

Since the beginning of SAP, the staff has recognized funding as a high hurdle for many students. “The scholarship database was created to help students overcome that obstacle by increasing the awareness of the opportunities available,” stated SAP Director, Jo McDaniel.

“It has significantly streamlined the guidance process for scholarship searches with students because the database tailors its results to each student and allows them to search on their own terms,” continued McDaniel. “This is truly one of our most effective aspects of our program when it comes to offsetting financial burden of the student.”

Illustrating McDaniel’s statements are the features and ease of use contained in the database. Choctaw students are able to search approximately 30,000 undergraduate and 20,000 graduate-level portable scholarships, grants, merit awards, loan repayment programs, internships, residency programs and much more from one web page in just minutes.

The database is so extensive that, in some cases, opportunities found through SAP are not found elsewhere. Those curating the information are highly trained in the search for higher education funding. Even the most obscure funding can be found because those searching know exactly for what they are looking.

Once a target list is created via the original questions, the lists are constantly updated and editable. For example, if a student took part a new extracurricular activity, they would be able to add this information and get financial aid leads pertaining to the activity.

Once a streamlined list is prepared, users are able to view a description and all information about the opportunity, and then apply from the same page. For those looking to quickly browse and apply later, the save feature will allow a user to save several high interest leads for later application. This function can be particularly helpful to parents looking to highlight certain front-running programs.

Currently, Choctaw Nation is the only entity providing scholarship search assistance on this scale, and has been since 2009. Over the past four years, SAP has witnessed a growing number of stories similar to Kuykendall’s. It is the hope of SAP that each tribal member seeking higher education will take advantage of this tool, as it can open life-changing doors to students.

If you are a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and wish to utilize the scholarship database, visit choctawnation-sap.com to connect with SAP. If you have had success with SAP, please notify the SAP offices, as to share triumphs and motivate fellow tribal members.

Follow SAP on Facebook and Twitter, as many opportunities and information provided are applicable to members of any Native tribe.