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One America - Piya Wiconi Project

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One America

Program: Piya Wiconi Project, Vermillion, SD
Contact(s): Dawn Eagle, Project Director: (605) 677-6881
Purpose: To increase the number of Native American nurses serving rural areas and reservations where the need is greatest for health care
Background Program Operations Outcomes


In 1995, a 1.2 million dollar grant from the Kellogg Foundation enabled Oglala Lakota College (OLC) and the University of South Dakota (USD) to financially support Native American students seeking associate degrees in nursing. The resulting project, Piya Wiconi ("new life") Nursing Education Program, is a three-year demonstration project which strengthens entry level nursing education and provides advanced nursing education in rural Native American communities.

Program Operations

The Piya Wiconi Project has combines USD's teaching resources with the OLC Nursing Department's experience and is committed to educating Native American nurses. The project has four major goals: 1) to increase the number of faculty who are prepared to meet the needs of rural, Native American, under-served nursing students; 2) to establish new college-community relationships and college-to-college programs supporting entry level and advanced nursing education for Native American students on the Pine Ridge Reservation; 3) to increase the enrollment and graduation rates of Native American students at OLC and USD; and 4) to improve access to regionally-based advanced nursing education for students in rural South Dakota and border communities. The Piya Wiconi Project's main focus has been to provide mentoring by resident nurses who have either participated in the program or who are currently in practice, as well as mentoring by nursing faculty. The program provides a monthly stipend to its students to offset the costs of education and living expenses, academic tutoring, access to current computer-mediated and distance learning technologies, and individualized and culturally congruent learning strategies. The program incorporates Native American perspectives within the nursing curriculum.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

The Piya Wiconi Project has initiated mentoring and tutoring for current Native American nursing students and facilitated the spring 1996 graduation of nine Native American nurses.

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