Fall 2009

[News]

Head of the Class

Program Celebrates 40 Years of Educating Native Teachers

ITEPP alum Briannon Fraley, ’09, just completed an internship at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

For RoseMary Pimentel, her time with the Indian Teacher and Educational Personnel Preparation (ITEPP) program has left a deep and lasting impact. “My biggest learning experience at this University has been through the club, through the relationships and through the community we’ve created.”

It’s now been going for four decades, preparing native students to teach, not only among California’s 687,400 Native Americans (more than any state in the nation), but in classrooms across the state.

Pimentel, who graduated this spring, says that ITEPP is a way to connect with other students passionate about supporting their native heritage. Often the relationships forged in the program last long after graduation. “There is no separation for me between the club and the way that I live. You have to walk the walk. It’s not just about planning for graduation, it spills into all parts of our lives,” Pimentel says.

Former directors, recalling the academic landscape of rural Northern California before ITEPP, say the program has been a success. “In the early days we could count maybe four college graduates in Hoopa, and now I go look in the classrooms and see ITEPP grads working throughout the elementary and high schools. The impact that ITEPP has had in the communities has been phenomenal,” said Laura Lee George, a graduate of the program herself who served as director in the mid-’80s and early ’90s.

At its heart, the program’s mission is to help native students, regardless of their major, navigate through higher education. It offers extensive curricular resources, personal attention and mentoring, and, perhaps most importantly, a place for the students to call their own.

“When I got to HSU I knew about ITEPP and at first I was intimidated,” says Briannon Fraley, who just graduated with a degree in Native American studies and a museum and curation practices certificate. “But I knew I needed to be around people who were similar to me and that’s been the biggest influence on my education. And ITEPP has been really welcoming. Just having this space has been a life-saver.”