Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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Wilson-Hooper Veterinary Medicine Assistance Program sparks unique opportunities

By BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation Scholarship Advisement Program
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Dubai, UAE, and Glasgow, Scotland are locations seldom associated with the study of veterinary sciences, but are notable life experiences for members of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) Scholarship Advisement Program (SAP).

Along with a gathering of many scholarships, a multitude of connections to institutes of higher education and college-prep resources, SAP is the proprietor of the Wilson-Hooper Veterinary Medicine Assistance Program. This scholarship, named in memory of the sponsor’s parents, has assisted nearly a dozen students each semester since its implementation in the fall semester of 2012.

“The Wilson-Hooper Scholarship has been a great blessing,” stated a recurring recipient who recently earned the title, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM).

During the final clinical year of education, students were required to complete an externship. While others from class were limited, the recipient of the Wilson-Hooper was offered more freedom from financial constraints, resulting in a month of study “in one of the world’s most impressive equine hospitals in Dubai,” stated the recipient. “For that, I am forever grateful because it was the opportunity of a lifetime and it prepared me to better serve my future patients as a new graduate.”

According to the sponsor, the program supports both students working toward a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine as well as those working toward an Associate’s Degree in Veterinary Technology.

This designation is a nod to the value the sponsor places on the traditional familiarity Native Americans feel toward animals, noting the namesakes of the program had a great love for animals.

As an illustration to this fact, the aforementioned recipient spoke of riding horses in younger years, stating, “I grew up riding horses, and as a high school student I was intrigued every time the equine veterinarian came out to treat a horse.”

The Wilson-Hooper is awarded to several students each semester based on merit and overall passion for the field of study, with funds matched by SAP. “If money is holding them back, I will give them a leg up. But they have to ride the horse themselves,” stated the sponsor.

The funds of the program are delegated among several students rather than a large sum to one recipient so as to encourage education among many, thus maximizing the impact. The monies, ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 when matched by SAP, awarded to the students each semester can relieve enough financial pressure for a student to devote full attention to academia. This can be the deciding factor in completing a degree program, commented the sponsor.

Another recurring recipient, currently in the third year of study at the University of Glasgow [Scotland] Veterinary School stated that with the funds provided by the Wilson-Hooper scholarship, they were able to fund extramural study programs required by the university.

These extramural studies include working in locations such as Malta and Ireland. “These experiences have not only made my education better at applying my knowledge, but also myself,” mentioned the recipient as they spoke of how learning foreign cultures and customs has shaped perceptions of education. “I would not be able to do this without funding.”

“I have correspondence with [the sponsor] and I keep [them] updated with any places I visit and experience I get while I am out here,” stated the recipient. They also went on to inform that the sponsor arranged correspondence with the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in order for the recipient to speak on behalf of the Glasgow Pathology Club.

As mentioned by the recipient, Wilson-Hooper’s sponsor is dedicated to not only financial assistance, but to the overall education of the scholars. The sponsor has provided each DVM student with a copy of Borror’s dictionary of Greek and Latin word roots and forms to assist in learning descriptions behind muscles, bones and behavior, as well as species’ names. Money and expectations can be barriers, but a little help can go a long way, the sponsor declared.

Wilson-Hooper’s sponsor has been actively assisting Choctaws since 2006, as a benefactor to the Jones Academy, a school for Native Americans, located in Hartshorne. Through this connection, the sponsor met CNO Executive Director of Education Joy Culbreath, who introduced the sponsor to SAP in 2011.

Learning of the considerable ways SAP assists Choctaws who desire higher education, Wilson-Hooper’s sponsor was determined to make a difference.

“It’s always exciting for SAP to have the opportunity to work with a tribal member and create scholarships for other Choctaws. We are extremely grateful for the sponsor of this scholarship and the vision they have in creating a pipeline of Choctaw veterinarians,” stated Shauna Williams, donor and scholarship specialist.

“The fact that someone wanted to help students focusing on veterinary medicine was very encouraging; it let me know that my hard work and dedication to veterinary medicine was important and was appreciated,” said the recipient who has become a DVM. “If someone from SAP hadn’t reached out to me and told me about the scholarship and what I needed to do to apply, I would have never known about it,” they continued.

In efforts to project this opportunity into the foreseeable future, the sponsor and Choctaw Nation are working together to create an endowment. This will allow funds to renew over time, enabling continual funding.

If you are Choctaw and would like to know about more scholarships geared toward Native Americans, or would like to know how SAP can assist you toward the goal of higher education, visit the SAP website or call 800-522-6170. Becoming a member of SAP is open to all Choctaws and provides numerous resources such as an extensive database of Native American Scholarships.