Tribal rep provides funding for Leech Lake Tribal College endowment fund
CASS LAKE – LeRoy Staples-Fairbanks III, as he ran for tribal office, pledged to make education a priority.
Staples-Fairbanks, 30, elected last summer as the new District 3 representative on the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Tribal Council, followed through on that promise this month, donating the first installment toward a $50,000 scholarship endowment at Leech Lake Tribal College.
“Education is the single-most powerful thing you can do to empower yourself and make yourself less dependent,” Staples-Fairbanks said in a news release. “I want our young people to know that there are people who believe in them and who want to help them reach their goals.”
Staples-Fairbanks and four siblings grew up poor in Minneapolis while their mother always ensured their lights were on and their home had heat and food available.
“My heart goes out to the women who have to do that type of thing,” he told the Pioneer. “It’s hard work. I don’t want my children to have those same struggles.”
By investing in education, Staples-Fairbanks hopes youth will grow up knowing their community believes in them and will support them as they work toward achieving their future goals.
“I know what education can do for you,” said Staples-Fairbanks, who himself did not complete college. “Education is the most important thing you can do for yourself.”
Further, he also hopes his scholarship fund – the LeRoy Staples Sr. and LeRoy B. Fairbanks Scholarship Fund, named in honor of his late grandfather and his uncle – will spur additional support from other tribal and community leaders.
“I think we can do more,” Staples-Fairbanks said. “We want people to understand how you can reinvest back into the community.”
Already, the college has received additional donations in response to Staples-Fairbanks’ pledge, said Kyle Erickson, director of advancement at LLTC. He also has provided information to six or seven families inquiring about contributing toward the Staples-Fairbanks scholarship fund or establishing their own similar funds.
“It’s a very, very encouraging early response,” Erickson said.
The Staples-Fairbanks scholarship fund is not expected to become available until the fall semester in 2014, Erickson said.
Funds will be available to second-year LLTC students. If they decide to further their education, the support can follow that student as he seeks a bachelor’s degree from another institution.
“Part of the college vision statement is that we want our students to become lifelong learners,” Erickson said. “We thought this would be a good, concrete way of showing that.”