Keweenaw Bay College Moves into Post Office

Aug 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 12-1: Celebrating Our Students, Tribal College News

College board members (left to right) Cherie Dakota and JoAnne Racette celebrate the college’s new offices with college president Debra Parrish.

The Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Indian Community has purchased the old U.S. Post Office in Baraga, Mich., for $50,000 to be used by the tribal college. College President Debra Parrish said she was delighted with the building, which will be used for an administrative office, a small conference room, a new classroom, a small library, and tutoring.

Prior to obtaining the Post Office, the college operations were spread all over the reservation. The college president’s office was in the tribal industrial park, one and a half miles from any other college facilities. The college will continue to use classrooms at the Ojibwa Senior Citizens Building where its distance learning equipment is set up. The college also owns a physical fitness center a block away from the new office, which is utilized by the community. Since the college is not accredited yet, it depends largely on the tribe for financial support.

The tribe has demonstrated its commitment to education through the years, according to Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College board members Lynn Ketola, JoAnne Racette, and Cherie Dakota, who are all tribal members. The drop out rate for students at the reservation schools is one percent or less, they said. Twenty years ago, the tribe had a serious drop out problem in elementary and high school. Only three Indian students graduated in Racette’s high school class. Now the tribe has an alternative school, home school coordinators, tutoring, and Ojibwa language in the schools. The schools bring in inspirational Indian speakers and pays stipends to students to reward good grades and perfect attendance.

The tribe chartered the college in 1975, but its previous office building burned down. The college offers classes at various hours to accommodate shifts of casino workers, and the tribe allows employees to take classes four hours per week to advance their skills. The tribe also pays the cost of tuition and books for tribal members attending the tribal college.

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