BROWNING, Mont. -
In just a few years, Blackfeet Community College hopes to grant Bachelor’s degrees in addition to Associate's degrees - something they’ve never done in the past 40 years they’ve been open.
One student's dream and a project are helping propel that transformation.
New York-based ad agency gyro:NY is following Danielle Antelope on her journey to become the first ever student to graduate from BCC with a Bachelor’s degree in 2020. With their documentary project on indiegogo, the agency hopes to raise the $5 million needed just to fund a class of one.
The math and science major with an impressive resume says she’s proof Browning kids just like her can accomplish their dreams in their hometown.
"There are people that take a path and get pushed through, and then there’s people that make their own path," said Antelope.
Her path looks like this: pursuing her college degree in Browning, a place many of her friends have already left.
"Kids in our community are worried about survival, are worried about what's going to happen when they go home, or what they're going home to," she said.
College often provides a way out. This young mother says she chose to stay after considering the benefits of a BCC education.
"We would hate to see her go away from here, away from her family," BCC president Billie Jo Kipp said. "She's raising her child in the culture. Those are hard things to do, those are hard trade-offs for education."
Danielle says it was a trade she didn't have to make. She gets to raise her toddler son, Jase, close to her family. And while she has to take classes like statistics, the aspiring researcher also gets credits for learning the Blackfeet language.
Though she initially was interested in nursing, she changed her focus towards math and science in order to complete her Bachelor's. Now, her dream job involves presenting scientific research rooted in Blackfeet culture at places that appreciate her heritage.
It's a heritage she too is learning to love.
"Every day I feel like I’m on the right path, and this is what I was supposed to do," she said.
BCC has been open since 1976. Danielle is one of about 400 to 500 students who currently attend the school.
Nationwide, around 250 Native Americans graduate with a Bachelor's degree every year. BCC has the potential to eventually double that number with their new program, according to gyro.
gyro:NY spent the last week shooting for their documentary on location with Danielle, following her to classes and to her home. They also shot a portion at the Pow-Wow in Missoula.
Creative director Jaime Schwarz said the fact BCC has already partnered with schools like Harvard and MIT for research speaks to the school's potential.