The Center for American Indian Studies at Black Hills State University is using grant funding to host a unique six-day college transition program for Native American students.

Now in its second year at BHSU, the Bridge Program is an early move-in and orientation experience where freshmen Native American students participate in academic, professional, cultural and social activities the week before classes start on campus.

Launched in 2010, BHSU’s Bridge Program was originally funded by a short-term grant from the American Indian Education Foundation. The Bridge Program proved to be such a success in its first year that it has been expanded and supported this year by a long-term financial commitment from the South Dakota Department of Education’s College Access Challenge grant.

“The Bridge Program was developed to help freshmen Native students succeed here,” said Urla Marcus, BHSU Center for American Indian Studies director. “Many of the students who will participate are the first in their family to attend college anywhere. They face culturally unique challenges in pursing higher education, and the Bridge Program is a way of helping them find solutions and resources to overcome those challenges.”

The program will provide opportunities for students to participate in a coordinated extended orientation week that will include social activities, introductions to first year general education courses, individual meetings with faculty members, and information sessions with Native upperclassmen students.

Specific student experiences during the Bridge Program will include financial aid advising, discussions about embracing Native American identity to excel in college, and a trip to Bear Butte to learn about the power of place and how that can contribute to student success.

The goal of the program is to encourage active participation and graduation from BHSU, which has the highest percentage of Native students of the six state universities in South Dakota.

The Bridge Program begins Aug. 23 and will run through Aug. 29 when it will merge with the BHSU campus-wide student welcome and orientation events.

For more information contact: Urla Marcus, Director of the BHSU Center for American Indian Studies at 605-642-6578 or Urla.Marcus@BHSU.edu.