| August 24, 2013
BARAGA, MI - The Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College
was recently granted full accreditation, as described in last Saturday's
Daily Mining Gazette, and Friday afternoon the achievement was celebrated.
A ceremony was held at the Big Bucks Bingo hall in Baraga, with
several key stakeholders reflecting on the college's history and
looking forward to its future. Several other dignitaries joined
in the celebration.
"It's been a long haul, and we finally made it," said
longtime Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal Council member Fred
Dakota. "Now all we have to do is to make sure that the students
learn about this tribe, other tribes, to learn what sovereignty
means, to also learn that history did not start when people hit
the shore here."
KBOCC President Debbie Parrish presents State Representative
Scott Dianda with a dreamcatcher during a ceremony Friday at the
Big Bucks Bingo hall celebrating the KBOCCs recent accreditation.
Several cultural elements were woven into the ceremony, including
an opening invocation by Joe "Zhawanung" Dowd, Ojibwa
spiritual leader, an honor song performed by Four Thunders Drum
and several Native American gifts, like dream catchers, given to
individuals. The KBOCC's motto is, "Catch your dream through
a superior education."
Cultural elements are also woven into every class at the college,
which is open to non-tribal members as well, and now that accreditation
is achieved, the KBOCC can step forward in making new history.
"I'm so very proud to be here today with all of you to
be able to celebrate this accomplishment in your history,"
State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, said during the ceremony. "I'm
very proud to say I represent seven counties and two sovereign nations.
I'm so very glad to see the project you've put together for the
Work is well underway at the new Wabanung Campus at the former
Baraga County Memorial Hospital building in L'Anse, and Jim Yoder
from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program,
who has played a key role in securing grant funding in the past,
hopes to help with the new facility as well.
"Hopefully at some point in time, we'll do some more work
with the new building in L'Anse," he said. "That is an
opportunity I'm glad you didn't let get away. That building is solid
and still has a lot of use. We'll be back to see what else we can
do for you."
Currently, the project is being funded with $500,000 a year
for five years from the U.S. Department of Education's Title III
funding, and Phase I is in the works now, as described in last Saturday's
article, which can be found at mininggazette.com.
"We want to be done (with the entire project) by next fall,
that's our goal," said KBOCC President Debbie Parrish, who
described many future plans for the college.
Among them are a cultural learning center, expanded vocational
education facilities, a behavioral health and counseling program
and an agriculture program. The college has several partnerships
in place as well that could be expanded, including with both Michigan
Technological University and Finlandia University.
Parrish also described the history of the college, from being
chartered in 1975, to the first college-only building in downtown
Baraga in 1998, to the first graduation class in 2003. Accreditation
candidacy status came in 2009 and finally word of granted full accreditation
on July 12.
"I believed in the mission and I said yes, I'll come on
board," said Baraga County Prosecutor Joseph O'Leary, who provides
KBOCC legal counsel. "What I didn't realize is I wasn't coming
on board to be legal counsel, I was strapping myself to a rocket.
We've got a dynamic board of regents, a dynamic president, the staff
is without parallel, and all these folks working together.
"There's been obstacles, there's been bumps in the road,
and yet they keep going forward. This mission is there, they've
advanced it, and here they are, a huge step: accreditation."
But now that one huge step is complete, more work begins to
continue to establish the reputation of the college.
"We're just beginning some of the work now," said
Kathy Mayo, a board member who helped with the accreditation process.
"Even though we're accredited, the staff, the faculty, Debbie
will continue to meet high standards and provide quality education
for the people in the tribal community and Baraga County."