Montana: Advancing American Indian Children through Primary School Education.
As a compassionate response to requests from tribal elders, the De La Salle Blackfeet School has been created to provide primary education and academic motivation to the tribe’s children.
In a remote part of Montana isolated by the winter snows, the Blackfeet tribal elders were concerned about their children. The tribe’s youth would be enrolled in schools, but that was the easy part. The hard part was keeping them there. All too often lack of ambition, diminished hopes of the future, and illicit methamphetamine drug use caused the students to drift away from the educational opportunities which traditional schools offered.
That was, until De La Salle Blackfeet School was created. As a compassionate response to tribal needs, this Lasallian school targeted disenfranchised Blackfeet children to provide them with a quality, dynamic educational environment. The school’s teachers are creative with their curriculum. The classes are small with lots of interaction. Students have Ipads and Chromebooks to enable modern instruction. And although the days are longer than other schools (8:15 am -4:30 pm), the students are fully engaged, involved, and enthusiastic .
These at-risk students no longer drop out. In fact, they are so motivated and perform so well academically that 100% of these DLSBS primary school students graduate and continue their studies in high school. But the positive influence of DLSBS doesn’t end there. These students use the formative academic skills and discipline learned at De La Salle to fuel their studies throughout their high school experience. As a result, 97% of these DLSBS students will graduate from high school!
To animate the students and teach others about tribal life realities, the school has created a very active OKI-NI-SOO-KA-WA (“Come and See”) immersion program. Each year, this program welcomes as many as 35 student groups for periods ranging from one to two weeks. During these immersion visits, students tour Blackfeet cultural sites, discuss topics with Blackfeet leaders, and serve DLSBS students while sharing their own hopes and dreams. The immersion program exposes a rich culture and heritage to the volunteers who help teach the classes, enabling them to animate the educational environment and help make the school a dynamic place for learning.
Currently, the school needs financial assistance to provide educational materials for the students and to purchase a mini-van school bus. Unfortunately, the local community can’t offer much assistance as 75% of the tribe’s adults are unemployed and 85% of are living below the poverty level. La Salle International is sponsoring an appeal to keep this highly successful school operating.
Donations of any amount will help advance De La Salle Blackfeet School and 100% of your donation will go directly to the project (fundraising poster here). Thanks for giving these children both hope and help. Please contribute generously!
[Blackfeet Tribal dance photo by Rick and Susie Graetz]
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