BMCC’s Mickey Parish Honored

May 2nd, 2015 | By | Category: 26-4: Tribal College Governance, Tribal College News
By Dina Horwedel

NTU president Elmer Guy (left) and College Fund program coordinator Darrick Silversmith (right) present BMCC president Mickey Parish with a Pendleton blanket during the AIHEC student conference. Photo by Jaime T. Aguilar

During the American Indian Higher Education Consortium’s 2015 student conference, the American Indian College Fund honored Michael “Mickey” Parish, president and CEO of Bay Mills Community College (BMCC), with its prestigious Tribal College Leader award. Parish has been the president of the institution for 13 years.

Parish is a home-grown leader. Tribal members saw his potential and asked him to consider attending law school after he completed a bachelor’s degree. With added encouragement from his wife, he enrolled and later became an attorney, working in areas such as child welfare, land claims, and prosecution. Parish went on to serve in tribal government for many years as a member of his tribe’s executive council. From there he made the leap into higher education.

Parish’s goal is to ensure that BMCC benefits tribal members. He says he takes pride in seeing how well the college’s students do when they transfer to other institutions, including his granddaughter, who was named BMCC’s student of the year in 2014 and now maintains a 4.0 grade point average at Lake Superior State College.

Thanks to Parish, BMCC is also a leader in Michigan education. BMCC is the only tribal college authorized by state law to charter public school academies. Presently, the institution has 42 chartered academies serving over 22,000 students throughout the state. As part of this work, Parish says student retention is a necessary focus. “We’ve seen a lot of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students dropping out of school. We try to identify programs and activities to retain these students. Although there is no magic bullet, smaller classrooms, closer teacher interactions, and making the schools a safe environment keeps them in school,” he explains. Poverty is a major contributor to students dropping out and often families do not have money for school supplies or clothing, making consistent attendance difficult and leading many to fall behind. Many students have used the college as a springboard for future success.

“Many of our students are non-traditional in that they are older, with families, and they work while they go to school part-time, so they do not always finish in two to three years,” says Parish. “But when they finish they are proud and we are just as proud of them. That makes it all worth it.”

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