Vol. LII No. 5
May 2017

Banquet Offers End of Semester Inspiration for Chickasaw College Students

Oklahoma City, Okla. – Chickasaw students in the Chokka Kilimpi Recruitment and Retention program attended an end-of-semester banquet featuring an inspirational presentation by guest speaker, Dr. John Herrington.

Students in the program gathered from the University of Oklahoma, the University of Central Oklahoma and Oklahoma City Community College in a banquet room at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, April 4. Three of the students will be college graduates later this month.

Dr. Herrington, a Chickasaw citizen, shared the story of how he went from an unmotivated college dropout to become an astronaut and the 143th person to walk in space. Dr. Herrington is a retired Navy aviator and was the first Native American to fly in space.

After retiring from the Navy and NASA, Dr. Herrington pursued a doctorate degree in education, changing his mission from space exploration to STEM (science, math, engineering and technology) promotion. Dr. Herrington advocates for access to STEM education, particularly among Native American students.

He recently published his first children’s book, Mission to Space, through the Chickasaw Press.

“Speak from your heart when you tell your story,” Dr. Herrington advised.

The students spent the semester buckling down on their studies, learning about Chickasaw culture, and spending time and creating community with each other on campus.

The students were recognized for their hard work over the course of the semester. Program coordinators gave each student handmade drums, created by Chickasaw artist, Ace Greenwood.

Dr. Herrington told the students about his experiences in space and a 4,200 mile bike ride that he began in Idaho and ended in Florida. On stops throughout his trip, he shared his story with Native American students, hoping to inspire interest in STEM.

According to Dr. Herrington, his studies show that success in math and science are indicated by access to hands-on, explorative learning, the ability to work well with others and collaborate with peers and the ability to make connections between the practical and theoretical. Programs like the recruitment and retention program create this kind of environment for students to learn in community.

“Stick it out. It’s hard. Work with your friends. Work with your family and find the strength. Have the patience to achieve something you are passionate about,” Dr. Herrington said. “I am blessed to come from a tribe that values education and values the ability in its citizens to make a difference in the lives of their families.”

Chickasaw elder, Pat Bartmess, who also attended the banquet, offered words of encouragement to the students.

“Wake up in the morning and tell yourself you’re going to have a good day, because you make the day and you make your life what you want it to be. That is your choice. You can choose for success, so I say go for it,” Ms. Bartmess said.

Chokka' Kilimpi' student participants get together at planned study sessions, coffee breaks, meals, cultural classes and educational events. They also have opportunities to spend time together at social activities. Program coordinators build bonds with the students, providing guidance during their time in college and helping them prepare for a successful future.

Program coordinators also connect students to Chickasaw Nation programs and services, including grants and scholarships, career preparation, internships and employment opportunities.

To learn more about the Chickasaw Nation Chokka' Kilimpi' Recruitment and Retention Program, visit www.Chickasaw.net/CK or call (405) 767-8940.