Grant to help UNC Pembroke, partners improve access to college for American Indian youth



Celebrating Success – From left: Dr. Tommy Lowry, superintendent, Public Schools of Robeson County; Dr. Pamela Hilbert, president, Robeson Community College; Lawrence Locklear, coordinator, UNCP’s Southeast American Indian Studies Program; Lisa Hunt, RCC grant writer; Lumbee Tribal Chair Paul Brooks; Preston Bell, aid to Congressman Richard Hudson; Jarrod Lowry, Lumbee councilman; and Stuart Locklear, grant writer, Lumbee Tribe. 


A partnership between the Lumbee Tribe, the Public Schools of Robeson County (PSRC), Robeson Community College (RCC) and The University of North Carolina at Pembroke has been awarded a $2.4 million, four-year grant to improve access to higher education and career preparedness for American Indian youth of Robeson County. 

From the U.S. Department of Education’s Native Youth Community Projects program, the grant award was announced in a joint press conference on September 24 in the offices of the Lumbee Tribe. A representative of U.S. Congressman Richard Hudson was on hand. 

Titled Project ACCESS (Achieving College Opportunities, Community Engagement and Student Success), the partners will reach out to American Indian middle and high school students, their families, tribal communities and tribal networks employing camps, a tutoring program and other programming. The goal is to improve the community’s awareness of higher education and its benefits. 

The partners have defined roles. At UNCP, the grant will fund a community engagement specialist who will be headquartered in the Southeast American Indian Studies (SAIS) offices in Old Main. UNCP’s portion of the grant is a little more than $880,000. 

UNCP and its community engagement specialist will organize summer, day and community camps, a countywide College Day and a tutoring program with the Lumbee Tribe’s Boys and Girls Clubs. The camps will introduce students and their families to issues related to higher education, including how to complete a college application, apply for financial aid and navigate the process. 

Another goal is to increase PSRC’s American Indian student participation in RCC’s Career and College Promise program and to introduce health sciences and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects and careers to American Indian students. 

Officials from all four partners praised Project ACCESS and its goals. “This is a historic moment for the Tribe,” said Lumbee Tribal Chair Paul Brooks. “This is an amazing partnership, and we’re going to make great things happen.” 

“UNCP’s historic mission is about access for Lumbee Indians to higher education, and this grant is a perfect fit,” Brooks said. “This grant will focus solely on our youth and assure that they are equipped with the tools they need to succeed in college or a career.” 

“The purpose of the grant is to develop a college-going culture in Robeson County,” said Lawrence Locklear, coordinator of UNCP’s Southeast Indian Studies program, who helped write the grant. “Improving access to higher education will change the lives of many American Indian children and their families.” 

RCC President Pamela Hilbert thanked her staff, including grant writer Lisa Hunt, for their work on Project ACCESS. “For our part, we want to spread the word to high school juniors and seniors that they can enroll in a college class free of charge,” Dr. Hilbert said. “This grant will help us make it happen.” 

Tommy Lowry, PSRC’s superintendent, thanked the partners. “Any time we can reach out and help support children is a good time,” Lowry said. 

U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson said in the release: "This is a huge win for our community. This grant is necessary to help introduce families to the higher education system, equip students with critical knowledge and ensure folks have the skills they need to get and keep good-paying jobs." 

The grant lays out specific goals: 1) Introduce 240 American Indian middle and high school students, along with 1,400 family and tribal community members, to higher education through camps; 2) Improve the academic support and success of 40 students in the Lumbee Tribe’s Boys & Girls Clubs by implementing an academic tutoring program; 3) Increase the PSRC’s American Indian student participation in RCC’s Career and College Promise program to 685 students; 4) Provide four (4) annual Health

Science and STEM summer camps for 60 K-12 students to broaden their exposure to higher education: and 5) Remove transportation and financial barriers that prevent American Indian students in the Public Schools of Robeson County from participating in Robeson Community College’s Career and College program by providing transportation and the cost of books and fees for program participants. 

UNCP and its growing SAIS program are especially pleased to be a partner in Project ACCESS, said its director Dr. Alfred Bryant. He noted the grant also gives UNCP students much needed employment opportunities.

“Increasing community partnerships and outreach are a huge part of the mission of SAIS,” Dr. Bryant said. “This grant will also provide our students with the opportunity to work as paid camp counselors and tutors.  

“The part we are most excited about is the partnership between UNCP, RCC, the Lumbee Tribe and the Public Schools of Robeson County,” he continued. “We all will be working toward the same goal of increasing the educational access pipeline for American Indian students. It is a given that we all accomplish more when we all work together.” The grant marks the first time the four partners have collaborated in such an effort.

For more information about Project ACCESS, please contact UNCP’s Southeast American Indian Studies program at (910) 775-4579 or email