WNC making higher education more accessible for Native Americans

Courtesy Steve Yingling, Western Nevada College

Lorraine Plympton, understanding what higher education has meant to her and what it could mean to others, has created a foundation for other Indigenous people to succeed in their professional careers.

The Western Nevada College Admissions and Records employee who is a Washoe Tribe member and 1997 graduate of WNC has started a scholarship for Native Americans. The Native First Scholarship will help Native American and Alaskan Native students attend WNC who don’t have the financial means necessary or who are underfunded in their pursuit of higher education.

“The first obstacle that Native American and Alaskan Native students face is the funds to pay the costs of higher education,” Plympton said. “These students seeking to fulfill their dreams and career goals with higher education will enhance their employability and earning potential and will be able to return to assist those in their Native American communities.”


With 134 Indigenous students already attending WNC and more anticipated in the fall, Plympton is encouraged that they will be able to pursue a higher education, as well as become successful, because of the support and fellowship they’ll receive. In addition to the Native First Scholarship, WNC has established an Indigenous Student Association advised by Sylvia Verdugo, and is planning an academic cohort in the fall. This will create a sense of community on campus and provide an educational support system to WNC’s Native students through cultural events and coming together to have a presence on campus.

“It is important that we acknowledge our Indigenous students on campus. We are here,” said Verdugo, a Professional and Applied Technology division assistant at WNC.

The Native American First scholarship is available to Native American/Alaskan Native students who have no tribal funding, grant or scholarship assistance; Native American/Alaskan Native students who have additional need above tribal funding; Native American/Alaskan Native students who are enrolled in federally recognized or not federally recognized tribes; and Native American/Alaskan Native descendants only.

More than 20 Indigenous students have already applied for scholarships for the 2021-22 school year. After learning of the Native American initiatives Native First Scholarship on April 22, at the WNC Foundation Board Meeting, several foundation members generously contributed their own money to this scholarship fund in support of Native American student success.

For more information or to contribute to the Native First Scholarship, phone the WNC Foundation at 775-445-3240 or email

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