Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

December 2, 2000 - Issue 24


16-Year-Old Adjusts to Life at Bacone

by Steve Lackmeyer Staff Writer for the Oklahoman

MUSKOGEE — Glenda DeLaMater, like many college freshmen, is adjusting to campus life. Before moving to Bacone College, she had never left the Pacific Northwest — the home of her Chehalis Indian Tribe’s reservation.

Being 2,000 miles away from home and living at college for the first time is tough for any student. But, for DeLaMater the adjustment is that much more, she is only 16 — the college’s youngest student.

For DeLaMater, attending college is just the start of a long-term plan to become the “next Bill Gates.” She has already overcome the reservation’s high drop-out and alcoholism rates, graduating with top honors and a 3.5 grade point average.

She chose to leave the reservation near Oakville, Wash., after meeting Bacone’s dean of admissions, Karen Workentin, at a conference in Seattle.

“There is no opportunity on the reservation,” DeLaMater said. “It seems that everyone on the reservation is stuck there. I wanted to leave and make something of myself to show everybody it can be done. There are only four people in my entire family to graduate high school, let alone attend college.”

DeLaMater, attracted by a scholarship offer, arrived at Bacone in the midst of a revival. Enrollment is up, and efforts are under way to restore its one-time status as a four-year college.

The college is the state’s oldest continuous college.

With it’s steep tradition in American Indian culture, the 718-student Bacone College would appear be a perfect fit for DeLaMater. The college was originally named Baptist Indian University when it was founded by Baptist missionary Almon C. Bacon in 1880.

Up to half the college’s enrollment is American Indian.

For DeLaMater, however, Bacone College and her Chehalis Tribe are worlds apart.

“I’m a northwest Indian, and these (at Bacone College) are southwest Indians,” DeLaMater said. “There’s a big difference: our cultural beliefs are different, our dances are different, our songs and outfits are different.”

At the same time, DeLaMater welcomes the change.

“I like to meet new people, so this is fine with me.”

The biggest challenge, DeLaMater said, was the social awkwardness of being 16 and in college.

“It’s the social environment, having to get used to people being a lot older than me. They don’t believe I’m 16 and I’m in college.”

“It’s better now — I’ve got a lot of friends, and that’s all I need,” she said.

DeLaMater said she was inspired most by a fourth-grade teacher.

“She told me every day that I was one of the kids that was going to make it in college,” DeLaMater said.

She hopes she will someday inspire others back at the reservation.

“I want to encourage them to stay in school, to take advantage of opportunities, leave the reservation and to turn the other way when there is a can of beer in their face.”

Bacone College



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