University to host education camp this summer

Camp Thunderbird will provide Native American high school students college access information and assistance


A number of Native American students from high schools across South Dakota will get to experience campus life at Augustana this summer.

Augustana, in conjunction with Camp Thunderbird, a non-profit, South Dakota-based educational program, is planning on hosting around 10 students during the first week of August.

The summer camp will provide students with information about the college application process. With the help of members from the Admissions Office, students will attend classes on how to write personal essays, complete FAFSA forms, fill out college applications and apply for scholarships—things many high school students struggle with, said Vice President for Camp Thunderbird Kate Haswell.

“the camp is for giving students a feel about what it is like living on a college campus,” Haswell said. 

Pam Homan

Haswell said she hopes the students—most of whom are the first of their family to apply for college—leave the camp with almost all of their applications completed and feeling confident about applying. Students will also review different colleges to see which best fits their aspirations.

“The goal is for students to have at least 75 percent of their college application complete by the time they leave,” Haswell said. “It is going to be fairly intensive.”

Interim Vice President for Advancement Pam Homan, who is helping plan the summer camp, said the enrollment process can be difficult for first-generation college students. 

“I was a first-generation college student when I came to Augie as an undergrad,” Homan said. “No one in the family knew how to navigate the enrollment process, so that’s the opportunity this camp offers, to provide students the confidence to apply.”

Haswell said this is the first time the camp will be held fully on a college campus with only high school students.

During the week, students will take classes in the Humanities, stay with a roommate in Granskou Hall, dine at the Morrison Commons and take tours of campus. 

When outside of class, Haswell said the organization will have extracurricular activities planned.

“We want to make sure students are having a great time,” Haswell said. “It would be great to show them some things that college students do to maintain their work-life balance, whether it’s finding a place to go rock-climbing or seeing an outdoor movie.”

The hope, Homan said, is to give the students an idea of campus life so they know what to expect when they ship off for college.

image8 (1)The announcement of the camp arrives after the creation of two new scholarship opportunities on campus.

Philosophy and religion professor David O’Hara established the Prairie Sage Endowment this week, a scholarship dedicated to providing financial aid to Native American students.

Augustana also recently received a scholarship allocation of $150,000 per year beginning in the 2019-20 academic year from the Horatio Alger-Denny Sanford Scholarship Program.

Eligible students must be full-time high school seniors in the United States, demonstrate critical financial need and maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.0.

Augustana was asked to host the camp through Teach For America, a non-profit organization committed to teaching in low-income schools and providing educational opportunities to low-income students.

Haswell asked a colleague at Teach For America if he knew a college that would like to host the camp. Her colleague recommended Augustana, and the organization “hasn’t looked elsewhere since.”

Camp Thunderbird is comprised of former and current teachers from the Rosebud Reservation. It was a way for the teachers to stay connected with students and help them throughout their academic career, Haswell said.

Students interested in the camp apply by answering a few questions on who they are, where they would like to be and why they would like to attend the camp. 

While the camp can only support around 10 students this summer, Haswell said she hopes the camp grows in number in the future. 

Camp Thunderbird does not only provide summer camps for high schoolers. Every year since 2008, Camp Thunderbird has run a week-long summer camp in the Black Hills and the Badlands for elementary and middle school students from the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations, Haswell said.

“I am so excited to provide a path for students to come and explore the university life, to have support and structures around them,” Homan said. “Our dream is that [these students] go on to higher education and succeed.”

Haswell said students on campus or in Sioux Falls over the summer are welcome to volunteer at the camp. Homan said students can also donate to the camp at

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