Native student has mind set on educational opportunity for all

Winter 2020

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Co-creator of “Miracle Mindset,” OU Native student Carson Ball is focused on putting college within reach of all students. Photo by Hugh Scott

Co-creator of “Miracle Mindset,” OU Native student Carson Ball is focused on putting college within reach of all students. Photo by Hugh Scott

Carson Ball doesn’t believe in limitations – at least not those placed on us by others.

The University of Oklahoma student has become a leading campus voice for education equity, bridging the gap between potential and opportunity for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“My parents always instilled in me that education is the one thing no one can take away from you,” said the Collinsville, Okla., junior, who is both Osage and Choctaw. “Knowledge is yours.”

Before even graduating high school, Ball was picked for the Oklahoma State Superintendent of Education’s Student Advisory Board. The experience opened his eyes to the fact that not all Oklahoma students have the same educational opportunities.

“But the passion really grew when I came to OU,” he said. A candid chat about educational disparities with then-fellow OU freshman and first-generation college student Miguel Chavez became the roots of “Miracle Mindset,” which provides mentorship programs for Oklahoma high schoolers from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and future first-generation college students.

“Just because you come from a certain area or community doesn’t mean that your success should be limited,” Ball said. “Our idea is that no one can place barriers on you.”
Miracle Mindset has helped more than 200 high school students through annual conferences, a college fair, scholarship tips, and mentorship. Dozens of OU students have stepped up as volunteer academic success coaches for the program.

Miracle Mindset recently was tapped by the Clinton Global Initiative University, which challenges the next generation of leaders to turn ideas into action. Ball and Chavez will attend the organization’s 2020 international conference this April in Edinburgh, Scotland.

That recognition joins a resume already bulging at the seams. Ball – who’s majoring in political science and Native American studies with a concentration in tribal governance and policy – served as U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s Senate Committee on Indian Affairs correspondent during a summer internship. As an OU Carl Albert Center Civic Engagement Fellow, he helped coordinate a voter registration drive that attracted 700 registrants and earned OU a spot on 2018’s “America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting” list by Washington Monthly magazine.

Ball received the OU Foundation’s distinguished Rita H. Lottinville Prize, which was endowed by the late Savoie Lottinville. He also was the sole 2019 recipient of OU’s Melvin C. Hall Award for enhancing campus diversity and was recently named one of 190 finalists nationwide for the Truman Scholarship.

As a Diversity Enrichment Programs intern, Ball encourages rural and Native American high school students to consider OU. He also collaborates with Joy Pendley, an OU research scientist heading up the Native American Student Achievement Study, to examine persistence in education and methods to battle the reality that Native Americans have the lowest college retention rates of any race or ethnicity.

“Carson will be able to accomplish whatever he decides to go after in life,” Pendley said frankly. “But he won’t just be focused on himself. Like many young Native people, Carson believes that he can be a benefit to his community, which is how change will happen.”

For Ball, change will start with the next steps in his own education – a joint law degree and master’s in education and, hopefully one day, a career blending education with tribal governance in Oklahoma.

“I want to show Native students that college is a reality,” he said, “and they are deserving of everything that comes their way.”