One hundred twenty-two commencements have gone by during the existence of the University of Montana Western. Thirty-five have gone by for Blackfeet Community College, and together the two schools boasted a record setting class of graduates in 2019. Of the 520 degrees awarded to 400 students, 19 belonged to BCC-TCTC (Tribal Community Teacher Capacity) program students who were part of a 2+2 Teacher Education program based at BCC, now in its third year. With the sun overhead, students from BCC made their way into Straugh Gymnasium where a standing-room-only crowd waited.
The low roar of the gymnasium fell silent as the National Anthem played. Pat and Everett Armstrong, assisted by Tristan Bullshoe, ensued with the Blackfeet Warriors Society song and the White Dog Victory song. You could have heard a pin drop as the brothers delivered an awe-inspiring performance. I heard whispers in the crowd, “That was so cool! And “Did they say that was a Warrior’s song?” The record crowd was impressed.
The commencement speaker wasted no time when mentioning the highly successful collaboration with Blackfeet Community College and the 2+2 teacher training program. With the help of many, the project has provided training for teachers who could remain in their communities and still achieve their dreams of becoming educators. The program has helped alleviate a need for teachers in the rural area encompassed by the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. For some time now there has been a need for teachers committed for the long term to serve the area. Not only has the program addressed that need but has also made a significant economic impact on the community in the form of careers. For some, it has been their life’s work to see a program like this come to fruition and have such great success. Dee Hoyt, Cheryl Madman, Anna Ollinger, Dr. Vikki Howard, Browning Public Schools faculty, School District 9 Superintendent Corrina Guardipee, BCC Acting President Carol Murray and all the BCC faculty who worked together to see this program through, your community thanks you!