Russell, an 18-year-old freshman from Heart Butte on the Blackfeet
reservation, remembers feeling nervous her first day of classes
at Montana State University.
didn't realize how big the classes were going to be," she said.
"I come from a little town, probably about 2,000 people."
quickly got used to big lecture halls, but she's still adjusting
to college. She still calls home every day.
mom's telling me to toughen it out, be strong," Russell said.
"Make it through college, make something of myself."
all freshmen face challenges, the overwhelmingly white Bozeman campus
can be especially daunting for American Indians, the state's largest
minority group. MSU officials have been trying to increase their
enrollment from 2 percent of the student body.
is one of 17 students at MSU in a unique program training American
Indians to become nurses.
the Caring for Our Own Project, or CO-OP, it was started four years
ago with a federal grant. Last year MSU won nearly $900,000 more
to extend the program three years.
goal is to graduate more Native American students from MSU's Nursing
College, working cooperatively with Montana tribes, the Indian Health
Service, tribal colleges and nurse mentors. It has 31 students statewide.
wanted to help people on the reservation," Russell said. "The
easiest thing would be nursing."
that Indian nursing students will feel welcome and ready for MSU,
they are invited to campus before classes start in the fall. They
meet nursing professors, learn how the system works, have barbecues
and form study groups to support each other.
Red Star, 24, a Crow tribal member from Pryor, said starting college
was "pretty exciting." After living in Seattle, he likes
the fact that Bozeman is not has huge as "U-Dub," the
University of Washington.
not just another number," he said. Still, "There's not
much color here. That in a way was a culture shock."
enjoys hanging out with friends in the American Indian Club room
on the first floor of Wilson Hall. It has computers, couches, coffee
and no one telling him to hurry up, Red Star said.
a home away from home."
Star said he's interested in nursing because it offers job security,
and he has always been interested in the medical field.
want to go into forensics," he said. "It floats my boat."
Obey, 19, a Gros Ventre tribal member from the Fort Belknap Reservation,
said he hopes to be the first in his family to earn a college degree.
sees nursing as a good way to help people, relieve suffering and
help the folks back home.
was really excited to come to school, because this is what I wanted
to do," Obey said. "If I go back home, I don't want to
go without my degree."