Partnering for Learner Success with the Virginia Tribal Education Consortium

In the spring of 2023, ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning (the Center) joined forces with Chris Cazayoux (director, ACT Workforce Solutions) to support the Virginia Tribal Education Consortium (VTEC) in bringing ACT’s resources to the Indigenous students and families of the seven federally recognized tribes in Virginia.

The partnership is designed to assist VTEC in fulfilling project deliverables of their federal grant project, entitled the Native Youth Community Project (NYCP), and the Center’s support is modeled after the pilot Adelante Academy project spearheaded by Nancy Lewin in Texas. While the Workforce Solutions team was successful in packaging and selling several ACT products for VTEC’s use through federal grant funds, the Center secured a subcontract from VTEC to host a series of college and career preparation, access, and success workshops for Indigenous students and families in Virginia.
“Students and their families are very eager to gain information and resources so they can make informed decisions and take positive steps forward. It is exciting to work with the many Indigenous communities in Virginia, and I am thrilled to advance ACT’s mission to help all learners achieve success as they navigate college and career pathways,” says Nancy Lewin, senior director of the Center.

According to the Postsecondary National Policy Institute, only 19% of Native Americans ages 18 to 24 enroll in college, compared to 41% of the overall U.S. population. The Center is working to increase college and career readiness among Indigenous students in Virginia by collaborating with tribal leaders, high school administrators, Virginia state education leaders, and local community colleges. Through in-person and virtual workshops, the Center works with VTEC to introduce Indigenous high school students to scholarship resources, FAFSA resources, test prep resources, college planning tools, career planning tools, and much more. This collaboration helps VTEC further its NYCP goals, as articulated in their federal grant, and specifically helps VTEC create comprehensive student supports that engage tribal communities and increase college and career readiness for Indigenous high school students. 

“This project serves as a great example of how ACT is activating its Equity by Design commitment. Partnering with VTEC helps build ACT’s capacity to work with diverse learners, schools, and communities,” says Tina Gridiron, senior vice president of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning.

To date, the Center has collaborated with ACT’s Communications team to feature the stories of several VTEC students in the blog series for Native American Heritage month (November), and the Center has hosted one virtual workshop and three in-person college and career workshops: one for the Chickahominy Tribe (September 2023), one for the Nansemond Tribe (January 2024), and one for the Monacan Tribe (February 2024). Each workshop was attended by representatives from community colleges, universities, postsecondary training programs, local college access nonprofit leaders, state education leaders, and the Conservation Corps. 

In addition, information about the American College Application Campaign national effort, under the direction of Lisa King, and the ACAC Virginia statewide effort, under the direction Erin McGrath (state campaign coordinator) for Level Up Virginia, was also included in several workshops, helping VTEC deliver on the NYCP project goals. The ACAC national campaign helps learners develop a college plan by high school graduation.

Working with VTEC serves as an example of ACT’s North Star vision and mission in action. It directly supports diverse learners and is scheduled to continue through the life of the NYCP federal grant.