CHICAGO – Antioch University Seattle and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded Center for Native Education have selected the American Indian Association of Illinois (AIAI) and the Black Hawk Indigenous Early College Academy as the latest Native American Early College High School. AIAI is currently the only Native Early College grantee east of the Mississippi. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have been working with Antioch University Seattle since 2002 to promote Early College High School initiatives in American Indian communities.
AIAI will work with the Chicago Public Schools, Title VII American Indian Education Director, Jolene Aleck , Dr. Kaye Woodward, from Eastern Illinois University, Chicago’s Native American community and Antioch University to develop an early college high school slated to open in August of 2010.
Early colleges are high schools that blend high school diplomas and associates of arts degree requirements so students earn diplomas and associate of arts degree credits concurrently.
While American Indian, Alaska Native, and Hawaiian students are the focus of this initiative in Cook County, other students may also access this school. With over 20,000 American Indian citizens, Chicago is an Indian community larger than most reservations.
AIAI is the newest urban American Indian organization funded in an effort to better serve Native American students, students who unfortunately have the highest dropout and lowest college completion rates of any ethnic group in the country. Only about half of Native American students graduate from high school. Of those who do graduate, less than four percent will earn a bachelor's degree.
AIAI was started as a student, parent and volunteer led group centered on American Indian education, college preparation and American Indian cultural arts activities. “The opening of an Early College High School for American Indian youth in Chicago will realize our dream of creating a school where academic excellence and success can be realized for our youth,” said Dr. Dorene Wiese, AIAI President. Dr. Wiese currently runs the Medicine Shield College program in cooperation with EIU.