Witnessing significant health issues among members of the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes on the Flathead Reservation— cardiovascular disease, diabetes, addiction, and cancer—while helping her father manage health issues related to diabetes, Rachel Matt felt “called to serve” her community. The Flathead Indian Reservation, located in western Montana on the Flathead River, is home to the Bitterroot Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreilles tribes, also known as the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation.
In 2017, Rachel enrolled in the Life Sciences program at Salish Kootenai College, an ATD Network college participating in the Tribal College and University initiative. She believed that by studying cellular biology, she would be able to contribute to the health and wellness of her community.
Rachel refers to her enrollment in the college as a major part of completing her circle.
“My education made me realize that community, education, and career are all deeply connected in a circular way,” she shared. “We create our own opportunities to uplift, innovate while respecting the past, and educate the community. Through my knowledge and career, I want to actively serve and contribute to my Tribal community; in effect, completing my personal circle.”
To recognize her commitment to education and to her community, Achieving the Dream selected Rachel as a co-recipient of its Harvey Lincoln Scholarship Award, given annual to students enrolled at colleges in the Achieving the Dream Network who have persisted in their studies despite educational, personal, or financial obstacles.
Broadening her circle
At Salish Kootenai College, Rachel has been involved in several community outreach initiatives related to health disparities on the reservation. Professor Wendy Westbroek, a Life Sciences faculty member at the college who nominated Rachel for the award, cited Rachel’s hard work in all aspects of her life.
“She has a full plate but manages to maintain an excellent academic record, keep up with a demanding research internship, perform community service, serve as a caregiver, and raise her family,” Dr. Westbroek wrote. “This scholarship will make a huge difference in Rachel’s life and will assure her future academic success.”
This summer, Rachel will participate in a 10-week external research internship at the University of Montana, with a goal of attending graduate school. Eventually, Rachel plans to pursue a Ph.D. in the biomedical field and hopes to serve as a role model for her family and other indigenous women.
The Harvey Lincoln Scholarship honors the late husband of ATD Senior Vice President, Carol Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln, a volunteer at ATD’s annual DREAM Conference, was a strong advocate for low-income students and students of color. Created by Achieving the Dream in 2017, the scholarship provides financial support for students at ATD Network institutions who have persisted in their studies despite educational, personal, or financial obstacles. Students must be nominated by staff, faculty, or administrators from their college.