Full scholarships now available to students in early childhood programs
Starting in the fall semester, students who transfer to or already are enrolled in one of two early childhood programs at Pittsburg State University will be eligible for full scholarships, to be paid for with an annual $600,000 contribution three Oklahoma tribes will make through 2023.
To be considered for the Tribes Scholars program, students must apply by June 7 and must already have completed at least 45 credit hours at any higher education institution, including community colleges throughout the region.
“The goal is that each student receives $7,000 to $9,000 per semester for two years,” said Amber Tankersley, who coordinates PSU’s early childhood programming, part of the Family & Consumer Sciences Department. “The intent is that it covers everything. This is all about removing barriers.”
When sophomore Hannah Robertson, of Quapaw, heard the news at a meeting held for current early childhood students, she cried.
“I was in tears. I tried to hold it together in front of everyone else, but I've been so overworked and stressed, I’ve been praying for something to come along,” she said.
Robertson, who works 35 hours a week as a nail tech while juggling her course load as an Early Childhood Unified major, has struggled financially and emotionally during the pandemic.
“Getting this scholarship would help tremendously because I could focus on my education and my goal, which is to work at a tribe childcare center after graduating,” she said.
The partnership between the Miami Tribe, Ottawa Tribe, and Shawnee Tribe and PSU was prompted by a shortage of childcare providers in the Four State Area, largely due to the pandemic.
“The pandemic has had an overwhelming effect on the American economy and few businesses have been more impacted than those who provide childcare,” said Carol Essex, who directs the Child Care Development Fund, a federal grant program, for the Ottawa Tribe.
The passage of the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) provides the resources necessary to respond to the Covid-19 health emergency; funds are to be used for a variety of activities related to preventing, preparing for, and responding to COVID-19.
Tracy Beckwith, CCDF Director for the Miami Tribe stated: “Operating a tribally licensed child care center we understand the importance of having available, high quality, affordable child care and that cannot be overstated.” Diana Baker, CCDF Director for the Shawnee Tribe added, “Parents want to know their children are in a safe, healthy learning environment while they are at work. Particularly during the Covid-19 crisis those parents deemed essential workers were dependent on reliable child care to continue work.”
Offering scholarships to those who enroll in or already are enrolled in PSU’s Early Childhood Unified or Child Development programs was a way to boost the number of qualified, reliable childcare providers in the near future, Essex said.
In addition to full scholarships, students will have to intern or job shadow in a variety of childcare settings with the hope of encouraging them to consider operating their own family childcare homes or centers when they graduate.
“This is such a unique and life-changing opportunity,” said Tankersly. “It’s an opportunity for students to go to school for free, and then we’ll wind up having some great early childhood professionals in the workforce. We are completely in awe and dumbfounded — it’s incredible.”
Recipients will be chosen by the end of June. They must maintain full-time status; part-time students taking a minimum of six hours would be eligible for partial assistance. Recipients must meet residency requirements in one of 41 counties in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, or Oklahoma.
Students need not be a member of the Miami, Ottawa, or Shawnee tribes
Via Pittsburg State University