Native Asset Building Initiative Grantee Provides Tools to Make Higher Education a Reality

Categories:
Education, Jobs/ Employment, Native Americans

Photo of Cody GibsonWhile working at Oyate Connections Vocational Rehabilitation Program on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, Cody Gibson was introduced to the programs and services offered by Four Bands Community Fund and was inspired to enroll in the CREATE (Cheyenne River Entrepreneurial Assistance Training and Education) class.

Gibson had always been interested in business and soaked in a wealth of knowledge from the class, but it also made him realize he wanted to go back to school to further his education and gain additional tools to prepare him for a successful business venture. However, finances were an issue. Luckily Four Bands had a solution.

Gibson went to the Four Bands Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site to get his taxes prepared free of charge, received an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and enrolled in the Four Bands Individual Development Account (IDA) program to start saving for college.

Through the IDA program, Gibson received a 3:1 match from Four Bands for every dollar he deposited.

After approximately two years, Gibson had saved enough money to sufficiently pay for his college tuition, required fees, and miscellaneous expenses throughout the school year. In January 2010, Gibson withdrew his IDA funds and headed to Haskell University to obtain his associate’s degree in business.

“I got to see how investing in something could build. It surprised me to actually see it happen,” said Gibson. He also says the IDA program enhanced his financial skills and taught him about savings and assets, “I never really thought about investing before. Now I want to make my money work for me.”

The Administration for Native Americans and the Office of Community Services’ Assets for Independence Initiative are proud to be supporting organizations like Four Bands with the Native Asset Building Initiative, a joint funding opportunity of the Administration for Native Americans and the Office of Community Services’ Assets for Independence Initiative. 

Through this grant award, Four Bands will be able to expand their IDA program to serve youth on the Cheyenne River Reservation with an innovative Youth IDA program. They will serve 100 youth, where young people will work in a paid internship with an opportunity to earn matched savings in a non-traditional IDA. This opportunity for earned income is especially rare in areas like Cheyenne River Reservation, where unemployment has been as high as 88 percent, according to a recent Bureau of Indian Affairs Labor Force Report. 

Like Gibson, the youth will learn important financial management skills along with the importance of saving for an education. Four Bands has been a leader in bring financial literacy to youth, and the expansion into Youth IDA’s builds upon their commitment to “Building for the Seventh Generation.”

Organizations interested in offering similar programs in their communities should consider applying for the Native Asset Building Initiative, funding for this grant will open later this month or the Assets for Independence Initiative, applications are due May 24, 2013 for the summer funding cycle.


Lillian Sparks, a Lakota woman of the Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes, is the Commissioner of the Administration of Native Americans.  Miss Sparks was confirmed by the United States Senate as the Commissioner on March 3, 2010, and was sworn in on March 5, 2010.  She has devoted her career to supporting the educational pursuits of Native American students, protecting the rights of indigenous people, and empowering tribal communities.

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