Youth and Education News
January 11, 2006 Issue 162 Volume 2
"Only when all our children understand the truth can they be better human beings. It's not about blaming one another, but working together as human beings. All of us." Sheldon Peters Wolfchild, Sioux
Experts say public schools need education reform
Michigan: A recent forum at Central Michigan University explored the impact of public schools on American Indians, and what education American Indians can share with society. Among the comments from the forum, called "Indigenous Survival: Education for the 21st Century:"
"We want to greet you in a good way. Part of our belief is to always say thank you for the world around us," said Sonny Smart, a native court judge who opened the conference;
"People are absent from the pages of history. There is much that we can incorporate into the traditional disciplines. As a grandmother, I would say, 'slow down.' I would also remind you to be kind. You are the ancestors of those who are yet to come," said Henrietta Mann, a Cheyenne-Arapaho and endowed chair in Native American studies at Montana State University
"Our children are being impacted by the curriculum of public schools. We're living in a diverse society. What is the cultural competency of our teachers?" asked attorney Donna Budnick, member of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Ottawa Indians "Bias in the curriculum is causing stereotypes, discrimination and leads to racism. It also breaks down communication between groups. "
"Students really come out and say, 'No one every told me about these things in history books. People do things to other people and they don't want to talk about it. It's the same thing with history." [Smart]
"When you marginalize culture, you're marginalizing (its people.) I don't see a whole lot of big change occurring. Culture, for me, is defined at home." [Smart]
"Native American history is important to each and every one of us. Why? Because we're in North America. It's important that we get to know and respect and honor. There is much wisdom for you to gain." said Michael Rao, President, Central Michigan University.
Program, activities teach Lakota values
South Dakota: The Ateyapi Program is a Rapid City program that instills pride in urban youths' Lakota heritage. Ateyapi, a Lakota word meaning fatherhood, brings to its program male mentors for the children, some of whom come from single-parent families. “We teach values, good decision-making, respect and honor. The core values,” said program coordinator Vince Gallagher. Entwined with lessons in beadwork, painting, silverwork, traditional dancing, Lakota language and hand games are the elements of finding their identity as Lakota people, Gallagher said. Ateyapi attracts 85 American Indian and a few non-Indian boys and girls. The Little White Buffalo Project, another Lakota after-school program, instructs students in Lakota language and crafts.
Chief Leschi reading scores soar
Washington: When it comes to reading, Chief Leschi Elementary is the BIA's model school. Many cite the Reading First Pogram and grant for the improvements. Students' scores are higher than the BIA Reading First average and the national Reading First average. In fact, during the grant's first year, third graders had a 39% gain in reading . ''It has profoundly changed the way we do business with literacy in the primary grades," said Rick Basnaw of the Reading First Grant. "As these students transition into the intermediate grades, they will have the reading skills necessary to unlock future learning." Two hundred and fifty K-3 students take part the Reading First classrooms. Nearly 40 staff members work with students on their reading skills.
Reading First: http://www.ed.gov/programs/readingfirst/index.htm
Escuela Tlatelolco’s Three C’s: Community, Culture and Caring
Colorado: In 2004, Latinos and Native Americans comprised 53% of Denver's public school students. Graduation rate was 71.4% for Latinos and 71.8% for American Indians. Nationally, only 12.1% of Latinos, and 14.2% of American Indians, over age 25 owned bachelors or higher degrees. Now some Denver students are meeting success at a PreK-12 community-based independent school. Schooldays at Escuela Tlatelolco Centro de Studios begin with talking circles and smudging with copal, a tree resin used by Mesoamerican cultures. "The majority of our kids are Latino, but we do recognize our indigenous side at this school, the mestizo people that we are, of Spanish and Indian descent," says Angelita Guerrero, a family service worker. Senior Estevan Sandoval, 17, agrees. "The school is culturally diverse," he said. "We participate in things like Aztec dancing. We learn more about the history of our culture. In public school, they don't teach a whole lot about the Aztecs or Mayans." At Tlatelolco Centro, students from different grades mix in the classrooms. The curriculum is organized thematically, and each student has a personalized learning plan so they can learn at their own pace. Tlatelolco also requires parent involvement and student community service. To graduate, each student must complete at least 360 hours of community service, and parents must donate 10 hours of community service each month. The school's unorthodox approach has met success:
Escuela Tlatelolc claims a 90% graduation rate;
61% of Escuela's students have received undergraduate college degrees;
20% have earned graduate degrees.
Arizona: There are few options, if any, for troubled young people on reservations. Other than school sports, clubs, and events, entertainment choices are limited. Some reservations are so remote that residents travel miles just for gas and groceries. "There's nothing for a 16 or 17-year-old kid to do but drink," said one youth. Over the past 5 years, more and more Native Americans have attended Project Challenge, a voluntary residential program for youth. Class 25, which began in July, had the highest Native American enrollment the program has ever seen. At Project Challenge, students live in a disciplined, residential school where they learn about sacrifice and respect. Many earn their GEDs. Project Challenge is tough:
Boys receive an immediate buzz cut;
Girls twirl their hair into buns;
Everybody wears a brown, nylon Project Challenge cap;
The students are required to address people as "sir" or "ma'am;"
Students bunk with dozens of classmates in a tight barracks filled with metal bunk beds;
Students make their beds to strict specifications requiring 45-degree angled sheet corners. Beds are for sleeping;
Studying and letter-writing is done on the floor;
After graduation, mentors follow the students for a year.
Mary Kay Titla said native teens who are changing their lives are becoming positive role models. "If there's not things happening in your community, you have to be a trailblazer. You have to make things happen," she said. "People need to take the initiative to say they'll change the environment."
Yukon school group found on U.S. threat list
Yukon: A group of students from Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Whitehorse have been labeled a threat by U.S. Homeland Security. The students and their teachers were singled out when they crossed the Alaskan border to attend a peaceful protest about missiles in Greely. "I think it just indicates the level of paranoia that's at work and that's a current concern," said teacher Mark Connell. "I think if I was an American concerned with my security, if all of the resources were being put in to monitor a high school group coming from Whitehorse to learn about an issue and to voice my opinion, then I would be concerned about that as well." The group's security status has been downgraded to the "not credible" category of compromising U.S. security.
Priorities in Lodge Grass start with an old boiler
Montana: As winter temperatures hovered at 20° below zero, the coal-fired boiler at Lodge Grass went down and school was called off for. Two days later, students were back in school after one of two stoker units started running. Still, it was cold enough for most teachers and students to bundle up in their coats. The boiler has been on the fritz for 10 years, and despite funding promises, the money hasn't come. Teachers haven't seen a raise in three years, the textbooks and curriculum need to be updated, and student achievement is a constant struggle. Lodge Grass schools' annual budget is about $5,000,000. Another $1,000,000 comes from federal Title I funding that provides services to students living in poverty. This may sound like a lot of money, but those funds are only distribute for specific programs. Montana's governor has proposed adding about $242,000 in state funds to Lodge Grass schools' budget next year, including $71,000 earmarked for building repairs.
University To Offer In-State Tuition To N.C.-Based Tribe
Tennessee: The University of Tennessee at Knoxville may allow members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to pay in-state tuition to attend the school. UT is 80 miles from the Qualla Boundary, the tribe's lands in western North Carolina. It charges $5,290 a year for in-state tuition, while out-of-state tuition is $16,360. The lower tuition will be given in trade for Eastern Band archaeological services. "There's been a handshake on it," said Russell Townsend, who works for the tribe's Historic Preservation office.
University of North Dakota to study American Indian veterans
North Dakota: The University of North Dakota will study health care needs for American Indian military veterans. The school's Rural Health Center will survey veterans on four reservations and one tribal service area. One hundred veterans from each tribal community will be asked about health screenings, health care access, health risk behavior and chronic diseases. Veterans will be interviewed by UND Indian students and Indian veteran organizations. "Increased coordination of services between the (Veteran's Administration) and the Indian Health Service is needed to address our veterans' health needs," said Leander McDonald, who is heading the project. "We hope the information that will result from this study will help to close that gap." McDonald is an American Indian vet and is receiving disability benefits. He said many American Indian veterans aren't aware of the benefits are available to them. "We hope to assist and inform both health providers and recipients of health care through this project," he said. The project is being funded by a grant of nearly $100,000 from the Otto Bremer Foundation.
College begins program to recruit, retain Native American students
Indiana: A program in Purdue University's Graduate School supports Native American students who leave home to continue their education. Nicknamed the Tecumseh Project, the program was developed through a cooperative agreement with Northern Arizona University. "There are cultural differences that are reflected in body language, mannerisms and eye contact that both the students and faculty need to be aware of for Native American students to transition smoothly to academic life," said student Aleeah Livengood. "We have a deep affiliation with community and family that makes it difficult for us to leave them and go to college. Also, because college educations usually require one to leave that environment, it has never been a priority within that community structure. However, the acquisition of an education is the only way that we can improve our lives, the lives of our children and our people." Dwight Lewis, director of multicultural programs for the Graduate School, said it's an appropriate time to initiate this program. "For thousands of years, Tippecanoe County, the Wabash River and Prophetstown were all key locations for Native Americans, and it's time for them to come back," Lewis said. "The first challenge we face is the distance from their native communities. Because Native Americans are more likely to grow up in an ethnically homogeneous environment, it's our job to create a similar community here in West Lafayette for them." Purdue's Tecumseh Project provides help in many ways, including:
Financial aid packages that include reduced costs in housing for husbands, wives and children;
Classes scheduled to provide peer support, such as peer study groups and especially informal get-togethers.
The Purdue program will draw future graduate students from the Northern Arizona University program for undergraduate research. The NAU program began as a peer-mentoring core in fall 2004.
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