In 2019, Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) created the Rise Up Program to make it possible for program participants to access a scholarship to attend Arizona State University (ASU) online. With the support of GRIC’s Tribal Education Department, the Rise Up Program provides financial assistance to community members seeking a certificate or degree from ASU’s catalog of over 200 programs offered online.
Dave C., who graduated from ASU this spring, thought his chance to earn a degree had passed him by 20 years ago when he dropped out of college.
“I thought [my education] was over and thought I had completely goofed up in life,” he said. “But then, 20 years later, I was online on Facebook and I saw Gila River had posted this Rise Up program.”
After learning more about the program, he realized getting his degree was “within the realm of possibility” and found that all of his previous college credits could easily apply to a degree.
Dave didn’t know what to expect or how engaged he would be with online courses. After enrolling in his first class, he found that ASU “really made an effort to keep everyone connected.”
Dave also learned how to connect with those around him for support and encouragement by not being afraid to reach out to professors, teacher assistants (TAs) or other students if he was struggling. Dave’s advice for anyone who is feeling lost is “to reach out to other people to make friends and create those professional connections.”
Having the opportunity to continue his education afforded Dave powerful learning experiences to expand his thinking and grow. Through ASU’s Social Embeddedness course, Dave learned to explore and shape his professional development: “I was really digging deep into my childhood, my education, my religious background and talking about how it relates to how I interact with people — how [my experiences have] shaped me into how I interact in the workplace, with other people in my life and how I should move in the future.”
Dave shared that the challenges he encountered and overcame during his program helped provide benefits for him beyond earning his degree. Whenever he found himself cramming for an upcoming test or pushing his limits with certain subjects, he reminded himself, “this is what college is about.”
“I had to kind of readjust my thinking. I forgot what it was like to go through being uncomfortable in order to learn. So, I think it makes a lot of sense that you feel a lot more accomplished after you’ve been challenged because you know you’ve worked for something.”
Dave found it easy to jump on board with the program thanks to ASU’s online student support services — which include one-on-one academic support, online tutoring and career services, with proven success supporting working adult students: “Everyone was super-professional and they were rooting for me to finish this degree. At the time, I was like, OK, I’m coming back after 20 years and I needed that support.”
From academic advisors to success coaches and even financial aid, ASU provides staff to support students through their entire education journey. Dave found his experience to be a “smooth ride” and added, “ASU is definitely a top, top university in the world. I feel really lucky to be able to work with them every day.”
After graduation, Dave plans to apply for graduate school in the summer to earn a master’s degree at ASU. His story is just one example of how strategic enterprise education™ can make a life-changing impact on individuals and communities.