Sara Young, the driving force for programs that engage American Indian students in research at Montana State University, was one of 10 individuals to receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) this year. Young received the award April 18 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
"Sara is recognized at all levels as a true catalyst for
MSU's successful mentoring programs for American Indian students,"
said Jim McMillan, dean of the MSU College of Letters and Science.
"She truly has made a difference in the lives and careers of a
large number of students."
An enrolled member of the Crow tribe,Young directs the American Indian Research Opportunities (AIRO) program at MSU and guides the MSU research mentoring programs of the Montana Apprenticeship Program (MAP), the Initiative for Minority Student Development (IMSD) Program, and Leadership Alliance.
She also mentors American Indian students participating in several other programs on campus.
Her work at MSU has focused on creating a campus environment that supports Indian students as they earn their degrees.
"In the AIRO program, we remind students of why they make the sacrifice to leave their home communities to come to college, the reason is to better serve our people," she said. "Ninety percent of the students in AIRO want to return to their home community to serve in a professional capacity ."
Young's role has been to identify students who have the desire and potential to successfully participate in a research program; identify and encourage faculty members to be mentors for the students; and develop activities outside of the research arena which supplement the students' laboratory experiences and help remedy any problems that might arise along the way.
"Mentoring makes a significant impact on students," Young said. "I'd like to see mentoring programs established in all colleges at MSU."
Education has always been important to her, said Young, and she recognizes the importance of role models.
"When I was in the sixth grade, I decided I wanted to go to college so I started looking at encyclopedias to learn more about college," she said. "I didn't have anyone to talk to about college. My mother didn't finish high school and didn't have much education, but she told me, 'What you learn can't be taken away from you.'"
Young knew that after she received her college education she wanted to first return home to Lodge Grass on the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana. "I wanted my own community to benefit from the education I had been given," Young said.
Young is constantly on the road, commuting from Bozeman to her home in Lame Deer on the Cheyenne Indian Reservation and traveling throughout Montana doing outreach work in reservation communities and the tribal colleges.
"We want the reservation communities to know that MSU will provide a welcoming environment for their young people," she said.
The Presidential Award is administered and funded through the National Science Foundation and goes to people and institutions who work with students in K-12, undergraduate or graduate level education. Young will receive a $10,000 grant to go toward continuing mentoring activities at MSU.
The mentoring awards have been given annually since 1996.