Creating a place where Western Shoshone children could develop a love for reading and writing began as a college project for Shiara Holmes. Two years later, the literacy center she set up with a college friend in Owyhee, Nevada is still going strong. Its success opened Holmes’s eyes to the ability of higher education and collaboration to make a difference.
“We don’t have a public library in Owyhee, so I wanted to bring literacy to the kids,” says Holmes, a Great Basin College Student who recently won Nevada’s prestigious Regents’ Scholars Award for her academic achievements and contributions to her community: Owyhee, a town on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, which is one of Barrick’s eight Western Shoshone Partner Communities. “I know this is so cliché but children really are our future,” Holmes adds.
Education has always been greatly valued in the Holmes family, and it was a natural career choice. Her father is a high-school social studies teacher in Owyhee. One of his aunts was a school counselor for years, and another was the principal at a school.
With one year left to finish a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, Holmes is now inspired to complete a Master’s degree. Her long-term goal is to stay in Owyhee and offer different opportunities for children in the community.
“There’s a high teacher turnover rate because there’s not much to keep them on the reserve unless they have tribal membership,” Holmes says. “I want to offer students that consistency of a teacher from the community.”
The Regents’ Scholar Award, which includes a $5,000 bursary, recognizes Holmes’ ability to make a difference. The highly competitive award is given to one student from each Nevada System of Higher Education institution based on their academic achievements, leadership ability, service contributions and potential for continued success. Holmes is the first Early Childhood Education major to receive the award.
Holmes has also received support and encouragement from Barrick’s educational and employment initiatives, which the Western Shoshone Partner Communities established as a priority through the Collaboration Agreement signed in 2008. The result was the creation of the Western Shoshone Scholarship Foundation, a registered non-profit founded in 2009.
“Barrick has a proud history of being a welcome and trusted partner of host governments and communities in Nevada,” says Tim Buchanan, Barrick’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility in the United States, and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation. “Working together with my fellow Board members who represent our Western Shoshone partner communities, we have created educational support programs that are optimized to fit their unique needs.”
Through the Western Shoshone Scholarship Foundation, Barrick supports scholarship grants for attendance at university, college, community college or accredited vocational school programs. To date, Barrick has contributed more than $8.4 million to the Western Shoshone Scholarship Foundation and the Foundation has awarded more than 1,250 scholarships. The company also partners with the eight Western Shoshone communities to provide mentoring, counseling and after-school programs for youth that remove obstacles to learning and improve high school graduation and college entrance rates.
“A key commitment we’ve made to complement our educational support is to provide opportunities for members of the eight Western Shoshone tribes and bands to participate in internship and employment opportunities with Barrick,” says Brian Mason, Manager of Native American Affairs at Barrick USA, who helps identify and assist candidates seeking employment. Since the program was launched in 2012, 125 Western-Shoshone tribal members have been hired. Close to 30 percent of them are women.
Holmes continued her education after high school thanks to the Barrick scholarship that covered each semester’s funding. She also applied for and received her first internship position in 2013 through Barrick. The following summer, Mason secured her a spot with her tribe’s local recreation program, where she got to work with kids and do a lot that pertains to her degree.
“I’ve been fortunate to receive internships each year since then, and they have helped tremendously,” she says. “My costs would typically include commuting to Great Basin College’s main campus in Elko if I have to see a professor or advisor, but I could take most of my classes here in Owyhee through a satellite setup. With the help of Barrick, I’ve been fortunate enough to do all those things because of the funding and summer internships.”
The internships have also allowed Holmes to put into practice what she’s learning and work closely with children and their parents.
“Building relationships with people within the community in a manner that contributes to where I ultimately want to be in my career has been a blessing,” Holmes says. “And I get to give back by taking what I’ve learned in school and putting it into areas that will make a difference within my community.”
Learn more about how Barrick encourages local youth to plan their careers and understand the importance of education.