PEMBROKE — Safeguarding Our Natural and Tribal Heritage Youth Program recently held its annual science camp at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
UNCP hosted 20 American Indian rising high school juniors and seniors from around North Carolina.
The camp, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and UNCP’s Southeast American Indian Studies program, opened the students to a range of sciences — from agriculture and wildlife biology to veterinary medicine and nanotechnology.
The highly competitive and selective camp connects American Indian students to the science around them and to opportunities in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math.
“The founding mission of the university was to train Lumbee Indian teachers,” said Lawrence Locklear, SAIS Program coordinator and camp coordinator.
“Students participating in the SONTH program were exposed — some for the first time — to a college environment; they lived, ate and were educated at UNCP. They visited other college campuses such as N.C. State, Duke, and UNC Charlotte. This was a great way to facilitate college and career exploration for the students.”
Camp participants, who were members of five tribes — Lumbee, Coharie, Haliwa-Saponi, Waccamaw-Siouan and Navajo — were shown career opportunities and possibilities in the various science disciplines.
The program hopes to increase recruitment of American Indian high school students to institutions of higher learning.
“By continuing UNC Pembroke’s historic mission of service to American Indian people, as indicated by its designation as ‘North Carolina’s Historically American Indian University,’” Locklear said, “we are able to expose these students, through instruction and hands-on training, to the opportunities STEM fields offer both locally and nationally.”
Campers used UNCP as home base and site of many activities, including tours of the Department of Nursing, the Museum of the Southeast American Indian and the biotechnology lab at COMtech.
The campers canoed the Lumber River with Dr. Ryan Emanuel, a professor with North Carolina State University’s Ecohydrology and Watershed Science program. They also received hands-on experience with ground-penetrating radar through UNCP’s Geology and Geography Department.
The program’s focus may have been on the sciences, but the structure of the camp also allowed the students to relate to their heritage through various activities like native dance, drumming, beadwork, art and the traditional game of stickball.
For information about this program or others of the Southeast American Indian Studies program at UNCP, call 910-521-6266, email [email protected] or visit uncp.edu/sais.
Mark Locklear is a public communications specialist for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.