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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 16, 2002 - Issue 74


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USM, Choctaws Agree to Boost Indian Enrollment

by Janet Braswell American Senior Writer Hattisburg American
credits The Southern Miss Administration Building

The Southern Miss Administration BuildingThe leaders of the University of Southern Mississippi and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians exchanged gifts Wednesday to mark the beginning of an effort to bring more Choctaw students to USM.

"The Choctaws in Mississippi are making a lot of progress in a short time," Chief Phillip Martin said. "We are interested in working with anybody who will work with us for social and economic improvement opportunities."

Martin gave USM President Shelby Thames a hand-made, double-weave Choctaw basket after accepting a signed print of a Golden Eagle by artist Sharon Vanek from Thames.

Seventeen Choctaws attend USM through a program Martin started.

The tribe picks up the cost of post-high school education, from vocational school to doctoral degree, for any Choctaw student who maintains a C average, said Nan Stamper, scholarship officer. Since the program began in 1994, 258 students have obtained a degree or certificate.

"We pointed out to the chief the number of world-class programs we have on campus," Thames said. Details of how to recruit more Choctaw students to USM haven't been worked out.

"We'll have to get together and work with more people than just us," Martin said. "We need to make more information available to them."

About 80 students graduate annually from Choctaw Central High School.

Development of gaming on the reservation near Philadelphia provides job opportunities that require a college education, said Choctaw graduate student Jason Grisham. He cited the hospitality management and other tourism-related fields as examples of USM programs that would benefit Choctaw students, many of whom will work at the tribe's Pearl River Resort.

"We can get so many people qualified through here," he said.

After earning a business degree from Belhaven College, Grisham is working on a master's degree in sports administration at USM.

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