Celebrate American Indian Heritage MonthWe in the Cloquet School District are pleased and proud that President Obama has declared November to be Native American Heritage month.
By: Ken Scarbrough and American Indian Education Staff, Pine Journal
We in the Cloquet School District are pleased and proud that President Obama has declared November to be Native American Heritage month. We are pleased that the president supports efforts to “expand educational opportunities for Native American students … to preserve Native languages, cultures, and histories while offering a competitive education that prepares young people to succeed in college and careers.” We are proud in that declaring November to be Native American Heritage month, we can use this forum to recognize the great things the Cloquet School District is doing with our American Indian Education program and the academic, social and personal successes that our students are realizing.
The Cloquet American Indian Education Program was established in 1973 in response to the 1972 federal Indian Education Act. The mission of this program has been to address the unique educational and culturally related academic needs of American Indian students. Special state and federal funding sources have been major drivers helping us to develop educational opportunities to support Native American education by strengthening strong ties with the Native American community, working closely with parents, providing additional academic support, and by recognizing the importance of infusing Native American culture with all the experiences our students have in school. We have a strong committed staff and community that make this work extremely well. In fact, a research team from the University of Minnesota at Mankato came to Cloquet to find out why our American Indian Education program is doing so well and has become such an integral part of our school district.
Just a few of the wonderful things we are achieving with our programing include the following:
+ We have educational programming during the school day to work with Native American students who need academic support.
+ Our after-school programing for Native American students provides academic tutoring, and activities to recognize and develop cultural awareness. Starting this month, we are expanding our after-school programing to include an introduction to Ojibwe Language.
+ One of the things our Success for the Future (SFTF) program supports is college readiness and awareness. For instance, our students have been able to visit the college campuses and admission counselors at Fond Du Lac Tribal and Community College (FDLTCC), the University of Minnesota Duluth, the University of Wisconsin Superior , Augsburg College and the College of St. Scholastica.
+ We are able to strengthen parent and community relationships with a very strong Local Indian Education Committee. This committee, among other things, advises and gives feedback to the district on educational programing. They also work with various federal and state educational programs.
+ Our district, from time to time, will participate in celebration powwows which involve our students and community.
+ Our Native American graduation rate is very high, and our students are developing thoughtful post-secondary plans to continue their education or pursue careers.
Native American Heritage month gives us a chance to reflect on our strengths and successes. The Cloquet School District is much stronger because of our diversity. We have almost 20 percent Native American students, but we also have students from a variety of nationalities and races. Our blending of backgrounds, ideas and cultures makes for better decision-making, better educational programming, and the developed understanding among our students, staff and community that our diversity makes us stronger. Native American Heritage month also causes us to pause to consider our vision for the future. We see a future when all of our students will be succeeding academically, and that any student with the inclination to do so can take high school courses for college credit. We see a future where Native American students continue to learn more about their culture and language and follow traditions of giving back to their communities. We see a future where we all celebrate our cultures and diversity, and we are stronger for it.
The growth of knowledge and rapid rate of change in our society is challenging for all, especially our students who are working hard to plan a future. But, through the collective knowledge and guidance of our community members, parents, and school staff we believe our students will succeed and have bright futures. We can commemorate this month by recognizing the contributions of Native American culture to our school and society. President Obama stated in his proclamation that, “as the first people to live on the land we all cherish, American Indians and Alaska Natives have profoundly shaped our country’s character and our cultural heritage. Today, Native Americans are leaders in every aspect of our society – from the classroom, to the boardroom, to the battlefield. This month we celebrate and honor the many ways American Indians and Alaska Natives have enriched our Nation.”
Ken Scarbrough is the superintendent of Cloquet Public Schools.
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