Leech Lake Hosts TCUs for Peer Tutoring

Feb 15th, 2010 | By | Category: 21-3: Tribal College Faculty, Spring 2010, Tribal College News

By Deborah LeClaire

There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC, Leech Lake, MN) recently hosted a seminar on learning center innovation that gave other tribal colleges a glimpse of that maxim in action.

LLTC’s Learning Center, now in the third year of a five-year Woksape Oyate grant administered by the American Indian College Fund, is beginning to look beyond the imposed boundaries of the reservation to the more inclusive village generally known as Indian Country.

LLTC President Ginny Carney and Learning Center Director Deb LeClaire put together the one-day conference in November 2009 to share information and spark discussion on best practices. Representatives from five other tribal colleges attended: Turtle Mountain Community College (Belcourt, ND), White Earth Tribal and Community College (Mahnomen, MN), Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (Cloquet, MN), Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College (Hayward, WI), and Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College (Baraga, MI).

The conference focused on the learning center’s mission – peer mentoring and student leadership. The center encourages learners at the two-year college to look beyond their own goals to the more inclusive endeavors of fellow students and community members. This has helped create a strong feeling of camaraderie and a network of support that many non-traditional learners need to succeed.

Librarian Melissa Pond spoke for many when she said she was impressed by the students’ commitment to practicing the seven Anishinaabe values in their work: humility, truth, courage, honesty, respect, love, and wisdom. The student panelists seemed motivated to not only succeed but also help others succeed.

Instead of emphasizing independent learning so much, the LLTC Learning Center focuses on collaboration, which complements the Anishinaabe world view. It is much more than a remedial tutoring program. For example, at the center’s Lunch and Learns programs, peer mentors research and present topics of interest to the campus community, such as “Domestic Violence,” “Stress and Its Effects,” and “Memory and the Oral Tradition.” Student presentations have filled the learning center to capacity with 25-30 people attending the talks.

“I really feel like we are making a difference,” said Ashley Cloud a few days after the learning center seminar. Cloud is a first-year peer mentor who has struggled to get her own college education off the ground.

“I think that exchanging ideas with each other on what works – or doesn’t work – for motivating potentially successful students to reach their goals is very useful for all of us,” says second-year peer mentor Barb Raines. “People helping people is what the learning center thing is all about.”

The learning center staff plans outreach into area high schools to put the college students’ leadership skills to work. They also plan additional workshops with the other Anishinaabe tribal colleges.

For more information, contact Deb LeClaire at (218) 335-4242

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