WNC News and Notes

Native American enrollment up at Western Nevada College

Indigenous Student Association Adviser Sylvia Verdugo delivers a presentation to parents in August at Western Nevada College.

Indigenous Student Association Adviser Sylvia Verdugo delivers a presentation to parents in August at Western Nevada College.

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Native American student enrollment is growing at Western Nevada College with a 22 percent increase within this demographic over the past year.
At WNC, 2.14 percent of the college’s 3,528 students are Native American. That’s actually above 2020 state census data that shows that 1.7 percent of all Nevadans are Native American.
So why has WNC seen a spike in its Native American numbers, and what is Western doing to intentionally drive this growth?
Lorraine Plympton, a Washoe Tribe member who graduated from WNC in 1997, says a number of factors — including financial incentives — are contributing to the increase in Native American students at WNC.
“It is a really good time to be Indigenous and attend college — that is a fact,” Plympton said. “There is opportunity for Native students to get financial assistance to attend college with the State of Nevada passage of the Native Fee Waiver for Nevada tribes and the Native First Scholarship has assisted some students with funds needed this fall semester. We need more financial support for Native students and that, too, is a fact.”
Plympton works at WNC in the college’s Admissions and Records department. She started WNC’s Native First scholarship this fall, by donating from her own paycheck each month because she knows firsthand that financial barriers are the No. 1 reason preventing these students from venturing into higher education. Since its inception, the Native First Scholarship has attracted many more community donations inspired by Plympton’s determination and generosity.

Karter Conway, right, is pictured with Indigenous Student Association Adviser Sylvia Verdugo and Western Nevada College President Vincent Solis. Behind them is Conway’s Best of Show painting, “Pieces of Me,” from the Faces of Native America exhibit now showing in the Bristlecone Building.

WNC also has several other factors working in its favor to drive enrollment for Native Americans:
• The location of its campuses is convenient to rural tribal people.
• Class sizes are small and desired programs are offered.
• Social media has spread the word about financial incentives and opportunities at WNC.
• Native American students are coming back to their tribal communities and sharing their experiences from WNC.
But Plympton said that one of the most influential factors in the enrollment increase could be the service and welcoming support they are receiving at WNC.
“There is an open door policy here,” she said. “If a student can come through the door and find the answers they are seeking easily and have friendly welcoming staff to assist them that too is a contributing factor in their retention. With more dedicated staff to work individually with students that is the recipe for success for Native students at WNC. If the student finds their answers reasonably quickly and easily, they spread the word and come back.”
Native American students are also forming friendships with their peers at WNC. Over the summer, WNC established an Indigenous Student Association advised by Sylvia Verdugo, WNC Division Assistant for Professional and Applied Technology. This has created a sense of community on campus and provided an educational support system to WNC’s Native students through cultural events and congregating to establish a presence on campus.
"The Indigenous student Association and other Native initiatives are focused around creating a sense of community on campus. We strive for attending college to be a great experience, and knowing there are people on campus who care about their success and are there to support them can make all the difference,” Verdugo said. “We need student participation and student feedback or communication to let us know how we can better serve them.”
Verdugo said that the ISA is very inclusive and knows that the association she has started can make a difference in whether a student feels welcome at WNC.
“It is important to mention that we welcome all nations and all mixed students. If they identify as being Indigenous, we welcome them into our events and we honor their unique contributions to our campuses,” she said.
With WNC making Native American students feel welcome on its campuses, they will gain something that has long been missing for this population.
“Above all else, we have to gain the trust of the Indigenous communities,” Plympton said.
As the numbers attest, that seems to be taking place at WNC.
Nerd Herd Holding Winter Clothing Drive for Elderly
Western Nevada College’s Nerd Herd is holding a blanket and socks drive for the elderly to help them stay warm during the upcoming, harsh winter months. The club for homeschool students is inviting WNC faculty, students and staff, as well as community members, to contribute to this cause.
Donations can be dropped off at Room 210 in the Dini Building from Nov. 15-18.
There also is an option to make your donations on Thursday, Nov. 18 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the parking lot between the Child Development Center and Bristlecone Building. Nerd Herd club members will be present to take these curbside donations, which will be donated to Meals on Wheels to give to vulnerable elderly members of the community.
Students Encouraged to File FAFSA Soon
Students planning to attend Western Nevada College in Fall 2022 should begin submitting their 2022-23 Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The 2022-23 FAFSA filing period opened Oct. 1, and financial aid officials are advising students not to wait.
The earlier a student submits the application, the better chance the individual has of receiving financial aid.
“The WNC Financial Aid Office encourages all students to apply early. There are a number of financial aid programs that award students on a first-come, first-served basis, and we want students to complete their forms early to qualify for those programs,” said WNC Director of Financial Assistance JW Lazzari.
Furthermore, by completing your FAFSA closer to the opening filing date, the quicker you’ll then receive your Student Aid Report. With the report in hands, you’ll be able to better plan for your upcoming academic year, whether that means increasing your scholarship applications, finding or increasing your employment and/or applying for student loans.
Students who have applied for financial aid in the past have an easier time completing their 2022-23 FAFSA since some information is pre-populated on their new form.
Because of the financial hardship to many families triggered by the coronavirus, students may be eligible to have their financial aid adjusted. A lost job or a significant change to household income reported on your federal tax return could lead to a financial aid adjustment. There will be questions on the application that will address this situation. After submitting your application, contact WNC to discuss your financial situation.
To file a FAFSA application, go to www.studentaid.gov/FAFSA or fill out the form in the myStudentAid mobile app, which is available on the App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android).
According to Lazzari, “WNC Financial Aid staff are available to help students with the application, virtually, over the phone or in person; check us out at wnc.edu/financial.”
For information, phone 775-445-3264 or email finaid1@wnc.edu.
New students can register for spring classes starting Nov. 15
Monday, Nov. 15 is a key date for new students as they can begin registering for spring semester at WNC.
Students new to Western can apply for admission and learn about other pre-registration requirements at wnc.edu/starthere.
Returning and continuing students began registering for spring semester classes the previous Monday.
To preview classes that are available for spring semester, go to wnc.edu/class-schedule. WNC is offering more online options than ever before, including open enrollment courses that allow students to start the semester as much as 9 weeks late and work at their own pace to complete a course.
Following the Nevada State Board of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine mandate for Nevada System of Higher Education students, WNC requires vaccines for all in-person classes beginning spring semester. Fully online courses do not require proof of vaccination. For more information, visit wnc.edu/class-schedule.
Scholarships are available through WNC Foundation. Apply for 2022-23 Foundation Scholarships and 2021-22 William N. Pennington CTE Scholarships at wnc.edu/scholarship.
Individuals can receive personal assistance from Student Services in preparation for spring semester by setting up an appointment with Counseling Services at 775-445-3267 or counseling@wnc.edu.
WNC to close Nov. 25-26 for Thanksgiving Holiday
Western Nevada College’s three campuses will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 25 and Friday, Nov. 26 in celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The college will resume classes and regular college business on Monday, Nov. 29 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
During these campus closure dates, individuals who need information about becoming a student at WNC or are seeking winter session and spring semester class schedules, can go to the college website at wnc.edu for much of that information.


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