PONEMAH (AP) -- Tim Sumner, a 16-year-old member of the Red Lake Nation, has focused his eyes on lofty goals.
"I'd like to be a lot of things," said Sumner, a sophomore at the Native American Prep School in Santa Fe, N.M. "I'd like to be governor of North Dakota. I'd like to be a senator."
"I remember once he wrote a letter saying one day he would like to be chairman of Red Lake so he could help his people," said Tim's mother, Jay Rosebear, a receptionist at Red Lake Family and Children's Services.
"I would like for the school system to get stronger so more kids could become whatever they wanted to be," Tim said.
Tim lives near Ponemah with his mother, brother John, 14, and sister Kim, 11. He attended school on the reservation until fifth-grade, when he was accepted at Circle of Nations School in Wahpeton, N.D. Teachers there recognized Tim's academic talent and suggested he apply for NAPS, a boarding school designed to prepare American Indian students for college and help them finance higher education.
He said competition for acceptance at NAPS was tough with about 200 eighth-graders trying for 24 places in each freshman class. The $24,000 tuition is made up by scholarships, although Tim's mother pays $1,000 and the Red Lake Nation also contributes toward the cost and his travel expenses.
Tim had to present his request for financial help to the tribal council. He also explained that he wanted to attend the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities and major in political science.
"They started laughing and they said, 'One day they'll be taking one of our chairs,"' said Jay.
Tim said NAPS teachers give students plenty of individual attention and the school carries an atmosphere of serious study. But being so far from home is difficult. Tim said he became so homesick last spring that he finished the semester at Red Lake High School. Those two months made him realize the advantages of the prep school.
An essay Tim wrote about his plans for the future was published in the winter edition of the NAPS Journal. He cited his political ambitions, as well as his hopes for playing basketball for the Golden Gophers. He now plays on the NAPS basketball team, wearing jersey No. 15 in honor of his late uncle, Lester Sumner, who died at age 16 in an accident when Tim was about 5.
"He was his hero. He followed him everywhere," said Jay.
"That's the thing that really keeps me going. I think what he would do," said Tim.
He said American Indian students from all over the country attend NAPS, but the majority have been from the southwest. Now, Tim said, the school is recruiting students from the northern parts of the country. Three other Red Lake students, Sarah White, Pete White and Keith Lussier, also are NAPS students.
Because of NAPS, Tim said he would not be returning home for the summer. Instead, he said he will use the summer for more education in a political science program at Stanford University in California. Another opportunity he had was to attend the National District Attorney's Association meeting in Palm Beach, Fla., and meet Attorney General Janet Reno.
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