Native CDFI, University of Nebraska, Wells Fargo Partner on 2023 Dreamcatcher Awards

GRAND ISLAND — In collaboration with Wells Fargo and the University of Nebraska, the Native360 Loan Fund awarded $42,500 in educational scholarships to four Native American students from the Great Plains.

The 2023 Dreamcatcher Scholarships support the academic aspirations of Native American students who are residents of Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota or Kansas. The scholarship and pitch competition hybrid was created to empower Native American students by contributing to the education of future Native entrepreneurs and leaders, according to Pete Upton, executive director of Natve360, a certified Native Community Development Financial Institution. This year’s scholarships were awarded to:

  • Morgan Murakami (Cherokee), University of Kansas
  • Keli Warrior (Southern Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma), Doane University
  • Macky Scott (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska), Wayne State College
  • Ni’cole Draper (Ponca Tribe of Nebraska), Liberty University

“These outstanding students are Native leaders who represent the future of Indian Country—and the Great Plains region as a whole,” Upton said. “We’re making an investment in these individuals because we’re confident of the ROI that they’ll each bring to their tribes and their communities.”

Sam Nelson, associate professor and director of the University of Nebraska’s Center for Entrepreneurship, expressed his impressions of the student pitches, stating, “I was truly impressed by the remarkable talent demonstrated by this group of students. Their pitches were incredibly detailed and all centered around addressing social determinants of health, which holds the potential to significantly benefit the communities these students aim to serve.”

Cristina Castro-Matukewicz, senior vice president of philanthropy and community impact at Wells Fargo, also attended the inaugural pitch event. “I was amazed by the students’ enthusiasm, creativity, and business savvy and feel confident that the future of Native entrepreneurship is bright,” she said. “Wells Fargo is proud to be part of such a great event that supports education for Native American students.”

Wells Fargo made a substantial contribution of $80,000 to fund a two-year Native American Pitch Contest in collaboration with Native360 and the University of Nebraska as the event’s host. The initiative reflects Wells Fargo’s dedication to supporting Native communities and underscores their vision of fostering entrepreneurship and innovation within these communities, Upton said.

The concerted efforts of Native360, the University of Nebraska, and Wells Fargo exemplify a “profound commitment” to their collective efforts to uplift Native American communities, Upton said.

“This scholarship program represents not merely financial investments, but symbols of the faith these organizations have in the potential of Native American individuals and the positive change they can bring to their communities,” Upton said.