Concordia St. Paul News

October 26, 2016

Phillips Scholar Helps Native American Youth

When she first heard about the Phillips Scholar program, Concordia junior Danielle Odeen had a discussion with her family about ways she could help her Native American community. One of the biggest issues in her culture is teen suicide, so Danielle formulated and pitched to the Minnesota Private College Council (MPCC) her plan to help. The initiative drew praise from the MPCC, and this past spring, Odeen was chosen as a 2016 Phillips Scholar.

“American Indian youth have the largest percentage of teen suicide in Minnesota. I have a lot of little cousins so I want to help create a community where they feel comfortable and have opportunities in their lives,” said Danielle.

As part of the scholarship program, Danielle will receive $16,000 throughout her junior and senior years, with the requirement that she implements her Ombendam Program in the summer of 2017. A first generation college student herself, Danielle says she feels fortunate that her family always talked about college with her and encouraged her to attend. She knows this is not the case for many Native American youth.

Danielle’s Ombendam Program will partner with Minneapolis’ Golden Eagle after school program, serving American Indian youth ages 5-18. Weekly themes such as ‘Find Yourself’ and ‘Make Yourself Happy’ will help build feelings of value and empowerment. There will be career testing, college visits and work with financial aid counselors, and most importantly, will include parents in the discussions so they can understand what their children are going through.

“I want other Native American youth to know that they don’t have to follow the statistics,” said Odeen. “Everyone has the same opportunity I have had to attend college, I just don’t think they realize that they can.”