The INSPIRE Program

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Update on NAPLP and INSPIRE Programs

Dear Friends:

Our Summer 2021 Native American Political Leadership Program (NAPLP) cohort has concluded and I want to thank Dr. Elizabeth Rule, Mackenzie Neal, our wonderful students, and of course AT&T, plus many of you for making it a success. 

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Inspire logo, graduation cap with Native American bead and feather




What is INSPIRE?

The INSPIRE Pre-College Program is a fully funded, 3-week summer immersion program that provides Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian high school students with the opportunity to explore federal-tribal relations in Washington, D.C. 

Through university-level coursework and site visits across the capital, students gain a better understanding of the U.S. political system, Indigenous advocacy, and tribal sovereignty while earning 3 college credits from the George Washington University.


The Program At A Glance

Full Scholarship; image of Washington Monument


INSPIRE scholars receive full scholarships for tuition, room & board, textbooks, round-trip travel to Washington, D.C., and local travel related to their coursework. Funding is made possible by generous contributions from AT&T and grants from the AT&T Foundation.

3 Weeks in Washington, D.C.; group photo of students and faculty


The city is your classroom — INSPIRE scholars live on GW's Mount Vernon Campus and have the opportunity to explore the nation’s capital through course-related site visits and recreational activities with students from other GW Summer Programs.

Earn College Credit; GW building and trees overhead


Scholars earn three undergraduate credits with the full-day, experiential course titled “Native Politics and the American Political System," which introduces students to Federal-Tribal relations and the interactions between Indigenous interests, politics, and law.

Research Projects; image of library stacks


INSPIRE scholars complete individual and group research projects on policy issues affecting Indigenous communities.

College Prep & Resources; students talking over study materials


INSPIRE introduces students to the coursework and campus lifestyle they can expect in college. They also meet with higher education professionals to learn about other scholarships and resources.

Meet Native Leaders; group photo with Deb Haaland


Scholars travel across the city to meet with influential Indigenous activists, federal employees, politicians, and other advocates for Indian Country.

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Let's Get


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Program Details & Frequently Asked Questions

How to Apply

All applicants must apply through the online application portal. You will be asked to provide the following:

  1. High School Transcript
  2. Proof of Tribal Enrollment or Ancestry
  3. Recommendation Form completed by a teacher or counselor
  4. A 350 Word Essay: Please write an essay stating why you are interested in the INSPIRE Pre-College Program and what you hope to gain by completing it. Strong essays have a clear beginning, middle, and end, and they illustrate a strong interest in public service, advocacy, and politics. How do you currently serve your community, or how do you want to serve your community in the future?

All application materials must be received by the deadline of March 10, 2021.

Who is Eligible for the INSPIRE Pre-College Program?

The INSPIRE Pre-College Program is a full scholarship open to Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian rising junior and senior high school students, as well as anticipated 2021 graduates.

What Do INSPIRE Students Study?

INSPIRE is a three-week program centering on the full-day, experiential undergraduate course, “Native Politics and the American Political System,” which provides students with the opportunity to meet and interview influential individuals working in tribal policy, Indigenous advocacy, and other fields in Washington, D.C.

When and Where Does the Program Take Place?

The INSPIRE Pre-College Program runs for three weeks during the summer months, with program dates typically falling between late June and late July. The program is typically held in Washington, D.C. on The George Washington University Mount Vernon Campus. In 2021, the program has transitioned to a fully virtual format due to safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sample Daily Schedule

Sample In-Person Student Schedule

Actual student schedules may vary.
7:30-8:30am: Breakfast
9:00am-12:00am: Class/Site Visit
12:00am-1:00pm: Lunch
1:00pm-3:30pm: Class/Site Visit
3:30-6:00pm: Independent or Group Study Sessions; College Prep Workshops
6:00-7:30pm: Dinner
7:30-9:00pm: Residential Events and Activities/Free Time
Weekends: Program Activities and Off-campus Excursions

What Research Projects Do Students Complete?

In addition to the daily meetings and class lectures, the INSPIRE students work on individual and group research projects that focus on important local and national Native issues. At the conclusion of the program, students submit fully developed policy memos and formally present their research.

Scholarship Details

INSPIRE funding is made possible by generous contributions and grants from AT&T and the AT&T Foundation. INSPIRE scholarships are awarded to students based on academic ability, leadership potential, and demonstrated interest in politics and community advocacy. Strong candidates are successful students who show initiative, who actively serve their schools and communities, and who are committed to making a difference in Indian Country. The selection committee takes a holistic approach when reviewing applications and considers grades, extracurriculars, community involvement, essays, and recommendation letters in the context of the whole person.

  • Students from all tribes and from every part of the United States are welcome to apply, including Native Hawaiians and Alaska Natives.
  • Students must be enrolled in a federally or state-recognized tribe, or, they must have other proof of descent. Proof of tribal enrollment can come in the form of tribal ID cards, official CDIB documentation, official letters from tribal enrollment offices, and more.
  • There is no application fee to apply to the INSPIRE Program.
What Does the INSPIRE Scholarship Cover?

The INSPIRE scholarship typically covers the following:

  • One course in Native Politics and the American Political Systems (3 undergraduate credit hours)
  • Room and board at GW
  • Airfare to and from Washington, D.C. (one round-trip ticket)
  • All required textbooks
  • Required local travel related to the course

In 2021, the INSPIRE Program is fully virtually. As such, the scholarship will only cover tuition and fees associated with students' GW coursework and class materials.

Information for References

The INSPIRE Pre-College Program aims to empower the next generation of young Indigenous leaders, and students are selected for their leadership potential and commitment to bringing positive change to their communities. The selection committee looks for students with a strong academic record, or history of significant effort and improvement, as well as evidence that the student is an involved community member. Successful letters of recommendation will:

  • Explain how you know the student and for what length of time
  • Provide evidence of the student’s leadership potential, community involvement, and service activities; the most effective examples clearly show a student’s interests, enthusiasm, and dedication to solving tribal issues.
  • Give examples of a student’s personal characteristics and unique qualities
  • Summarize the positive impact the student has made in one or more areas of academics, service to the community, extracurriculars, etc.

References are responsible for uploading their letters of recommendation to the application portal by the deadline.


Students speak with a tribal leader

5 Great Reasons to
Support the INSPIRE Program


  of ‘19 INSPIRE scholars rated the program as “Excellent” or “Good”


  of ‘19 INSPIRE scholars would recommend the program to other students


of ’19 INSPIRE scholars said the program positively impacted their plans for college


of ’19 INSPIRE scholars said the program positively impacted their career plans


of ’19 INSPIRE scholars reported that the program increased their interest in civic engagement

INSPIRE Scholar Helen John and the U.S. Capitol

”Spending time in D.C. with the INSPIRE Pre-College Program gave me a great introduction to politics and different organizations working with and for Native communities. It was also a great opportunity to connect with other Native youth and be able to discuss similarities and differences between our communities and cultures. I had a great experience in D.C. and plan on moving back for a while at some point in my career.”

Helen John
Nunakauyarmiut Tribe
INSPIRE Scholar, 2016

Students with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland when she served as Representative from New Mexico
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Kawika Riley

Kawika Riley
INSPIRE Program Director

Kawika Riley is the statewide manager for Community Change Initiatives at the Lili’uokalani Trust, a perpetual trust founded by Hawai’i’s last reigning monarch. He is also a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, in Public Policy and Indigenous Politics. 

Kawika Riley has spent the last 15 years working in government, Indigenous institutions, and academia. His career in public policy started in Washington, DC, attending GWU's Graduate School of Political Management in the evenings while working at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' DC Bureau during
the day. 

Since then, he's had opportunities to see powerful institutions working from up close: as Communications Director and Legislative Assistant at the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs; as a National Spokesman for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration; and as the co-founder of a nonprofit corporation. More recently he served as the OHA DC Bureau Chief and the Chief Advocate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, an independent state agency that exists for the betterment of Native Hawaiians. 

Former INSPIRE Faculty: Nicholas Courtney  |  Dr. Waziyatawin

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students meeting with Elizabeth Warren