With 74 students from 32 American Indian tribes in 11 states, the Native American Preparatory School in Rowe, New Mexico, is “almost like a Native American United Nations,” according to principal Sven Husaby. Formed in 1995 by Richard Ettinger, son of the founder of schoolbook publisher Prentice Hall, the school’s aim is to prepare gifted Native American students from poverty-stricken reservations for Ivy League colleges.
“It’s not our responsibility to teach these teens how to be native,” Husaby told New York Times reporter Jane Salodof. “But it is our responsibility to support their native identities, to give a fuller understanding of the native world in the United States.”
The school exists because of Ettinger’s experiences more than 50 years ago as a student at Dartmouth College, whose charter makes a commitment to American Indian education. But Ettinger found no Native American classmates at Dartmouth. He attempted to address the problem, first with college scholarships and finally with the college prep high school. Most students at the school are on scholarships, paying a minimum of $900 for the year.
Though most Native Americans now live in cities, reservations are targeted for recruiting because talented children there have few opportunities to be challenged academically. As a result, many entering students are poorly prepared to handle the demanding prep school classes and need remedial work, especially in mathematics. However, the school tends to attract student with high levels of motivation, with the drive necessary to escape the poverty and alcohol abuse common in reservation life.
The Native American Preparatory School’s first graduating class in June has drawn interest from more than 30 colleges, including Harvard and Cornell.