At the center of preserving our past, present, and future is an acknowledgement of the importance of education.
There was a time that the Cherokee believed that the best way to preserve our culture was to give our own up. Those were violent times for our people, times during which our land was taken, our people forcibly removed from the land we called home, and our culture assimilated into one that cared little for our long, proud history.
A resilient people, we have persevered and slowly reclaimed much of what was lost. We bought back our lands, preserved sacred sites, and have become one of the primary economic drivers in western North Carolina. Most importantly, we have fought to preserve our cultural heritage while also offering opportunity as we move toward a brighter future.
At the center of preserving our past, present, and future is an acknowledgement of the importance of education. Without quality education, we are unable to pass knowledge to future generations or adequately prepare those generations to succeed in the world. To this end, we have instituted a number of programs, and provide multiple resources that improve education for our people.
In 1988, we took back our responsibility for educating our youth. This involved instituting language and cultural immersion programs that taught our youth to take pride in, and ownership of their heritage.
Through the years, we have also committed significant funds to supporting programs like STEM in our classrooms, leadership development, and skills training. These programs are designed to prepare our youth to contribute and succeed in the economic realities of today and tomorrow. We have also invested in infrastructure, recently completing construction of a green, tech-enabled, K-12 facility that serves our members as well as other students living in the region.
Free tuition has served to provide hope and motivation for all our students as they look toward their futures.
We also understand the importance of incentives in motivating students to achieve and pursue their dreams. To this end, we are proud to offer free tuition for high school graduates interested in pursuing higher education or additional skills training. This allows students like Raylen Bark, a high school junior, to dream about attending Stanford and going on to pursue a law degree in order to return to serve our people as a legal advisor. Without the financial resources we provide, students would be unable to dream beyond their economic status. Free tuition has served to provide hope and motivation for all our students as they look toward their futures. It also provides our people with the talent and expertise needed to continue improving the lives of our members and the greater region of western North Carolina.