Apr 11, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterCaroline Mills, a former member of the Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees, recently received an award from the Wyoming Association of Community College Trustees.
The Eastern Shoshone tribe member was presented with a leadership award for her public service at the WACCT's annual awards and legislative reception in Cheyenne. She retired from the board when her term ended in December 2012 after representing the Wind River Indian Reservation subdistrict for eight years.
The nomination was made by the seven community colleges in the state.
"The highest honor you can receive is from your peers across the state of Wyoming, which is an indicator of the work and the commitment that she has performed for students for the subdistrict in Central Wyoming College," Rep. Patrick Goggles said about the recognition for Mills. "It was well deserved."
Mills commended the college for being an important source for students who want to expand their education.
Mills, who majored in Indian studies in college, later received certification to teach social studies in schools after noticing a lack of extended Native culture education in schools.
"You could only find Indians in about three places in a history book," Mills said.
She taught at St. Stephen's Indian High School for five years, and she said she liked using newspaper articles as a way to educate and test students about current events in the community.
"I wanted to make it more interesting to high schools students so that they would know the history of Native people," she said.
Today Mills is the director of the Fort Washakie Learning Center, which is funded through the Eastern Shoshone tribe and equipped by CWC. The center provides students with resources and tutoring so they can pass their General Education Development test and attend college.
"Basically we are providing GED instruction over 40 hours a week for students," Mills said, adding that roughly 30 students a month attend the center because no other program provides the help they need to prepare for the test.
She said they often try to accommodate students who ask to visit the center on the weekends. David Jones, a student currently receiving tutoring at the center who wants to expand his education in carpentry at CWC, described Mills as a "concerned" guide who showed interest in his efforts since day one.
"She helps identify our problems and breaks it down for us," Jones said. "She never puts us down. She wants to be there for us."
Mills said she gives students a "reality check" and encourages everyone to pursue careers and not stop learning once they past the GED test.
"I give them straight language," Mills said, adding that she helps students set up a plan with study time incorporated to determine how soon they can take the GED test.
She also said a correctional facility on the reservation requested that the center extend its services to them for their students, which is something she's done in the past.
Mills has also collaborated with the International Partners in Mission, an organization based in Cleveland, since 2000. With them, Mills has been given resources and funding to form a youth group on the reservation. With their help she also plans on showcasing and selling American Indian beadwork on a website to show the work of various handmade items.
Mills also has served on the Wyoming Humanities Council, the Shoshone and Arapaho Head Start Policy Council and the Rocky Mountain Youth/Parent Organization. She was also the college's representative to the CWC Board of Cooperative Higher Educational Services.
She said she shared pride in having been on the board when the Intertribal Education and Community Center at CWC was in the works.
"I decided to run a second term just because of that," she said.
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