High school students attending the Cherokee Nation Foundation's ACT Prep Camp at Northeastern State University this week are getting a glimpse of their future and learning strategies to help them succeed on the college entrance exam.

This is the sixth year for CNF to host the camp, and Cherokee juniors and seniors from around the state traveled to Tahlequah with the hope of improving their ACT scores. The 30 students will also get a taste of college life, as they're staying in the Leoser Hall for the week.

The main goal for the students is to improve their ACT test scores. The CNF gives them tools to do so, by coaching them through The Princeton Review curriculum, which offers test preparation strategies and ways to helps them maximize their time.

Jennifer Sandoval, ACT instructor, said she puts a big emphasis on time management, so students do not dwell on a question for too long.

"They know they have a certain amount of time and they think have to get through every single questions, but that's not the goal of the ACT," said Sandoval. "We want them to get every single question that they know how to do correctly, get through those, and then come back and work on the questions they think they know how to solve and spend a little more time."

Students will learn specific strategies for all four subjects: English, reading, math and science. They took math and English classes Monday, and Tuesday, the group tackled reading.

"We go in-depth in each subject area and spend a lot of time breaking those subject areas down for the students, so they can really understand what we're trying to get across to them," said Sandoval.

The camp is free for all Native students and there is preference for Cherokees. Janice Randall, CNF executive director, said not many people were aware of the camp when it first started, but now, there is a waiting list. One year, a student increased the ACT score by 10 points, which could mean difference in going to college and not going.

The students have all their meals, lodging, and test expenses provided for by the CNF, Cherokee Nation Businesses and NSU. Other than preparing for the ACT exam, which they will take Saturday, they also go through workshops focusing on admissions, financials aid and scholarships, and essay writing.

"NSU does a really good one," said Randall. "It puts in their interests and it tells them some of the areas they might want to concentrate on when they go to college, like if they're going to be a good engineer or a good teacher."

Many of the students are in the Cherokee Scholar program, which offers them a specific route to becoming successful in all core academic subjects.

And to be Cherokee Scholars, they have to attend one of the CNF's camps.

"Then we kind of mentor them by bringing them here and doing this camp with them and encouraging them," said Randall. "Some of them already have their areas picked out; some of them have no clue what they want to do."

Lila Sherman already knows what she wants do with her future: She plan to attend NSU to be part of its speech pathology program.

"I want to just help kids work through their problems, because I used to have tracking problems," said Sherman. "So I know what it feels like to struggle. I couldn't really read until the fourth grade, when we figured out my eyes would jump on the pages, so I know kind of what it feels like to be behind other students and feel like what is wrong with me, why can't I do this, they're doing it. And I feel like NSU is going to help me help those kids."

While they're on campus, students will also have fun activities during the evening. The CNF plans to take them to Sam & Ella's for a pizza night. They also will play stickball, laser tag, and listen to storytelling by Robert Lewis. So far, Sherman said, the camp has been "really fun."

"I was kind of concerned about the kids, like what if I don't fit in?" she said. "But everyone here has been so nice and we already kind of have a group going on. Me and my roommate and some girls down the hall were hanging out last night, playing basketball. I don't really play basketball, but Brooklyn [Sherman's friend] pushed me to get out of my comfort zone."

The CNF will also host the annual Cherokee College Prep Institute, July 14-19. There, students will get to meet admissions counselors from across the country. Recruiters often visit from schools like Duke, Harvard and Yale. They'll also have a chance to complete college applications and identify scholarship opportunities.

Marisa Hambleton, with CNF, travels to high schools and college fairs to share what type of scholarships students can acquire through CNF. She said the CNF summer camps are a gateway into those scholarships. She also said it gives students a wider perspective of the places they could go and the colleges they could attend.

"For Cherokee College Prep Institute, we have so many different admissions councilors," said Hambleton. "It gives them different perspectives on different colleges and what they're looking for. So students can find the right fit for them, whether it be a big college, or a state college, or an Ivy League."

Learn more

For more information about the Cherokee Nation Foundation summer camps, visit www.cherokeenationfoundation.org.