Last week, Running Strong for American Indian Youth staff members Audrey and Julia went on a site visit to the Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin. They visited the Menominee Indian School District (MISD), where Running Strong funds the Smart Sacks program, and saw other community programs. The Smart Sacks program provides kids in pre-K through 5th grade with healthy food to take home on the weekends.
After meeting with MISD Superintendent Wendell Waukau on Wednesday, Audrey and Julia had an action packed day on Thursday. They toured the MISD middle school and high schools, toured the Menominee Tribal Clinic, met with the community’s Nutrition and Wellness team, and attended a Veteran’s Walk in the evening.
(left: a student makes a beaded medallion in a Menominee culture & art class; right: Audrey & Julia pose outside the high school)
At the high school, our staff heard about programs such as Freshman Academy, a program which gives personalized guidance to 9th graders. High School teachers and administrators had noticed that many students were struggling or even dropping out during their first year of high school. The implementation of the Freshman Academy has helped the percentage of students moving forward to 10th grade jump from about 50% to over 85%.
At the tribal clinic, our staff members learned about the clinic’s approach, services, history, and future. The clinic uses a patient-centered “Improving Patient Care” model and offers services including primary care, dental, optometry, nutrition, EMS, and women’s health.
At the meeting with the Nutrition and Wellness team, Audrey and Julia met with various community leaders involved in wellness in some way. They talked about the community and the partnership with Running Strong, and then MISD showed Audrey and Julia a video about our work together—see the video here!
(left: kids collect their items from the Smart Sacks program; right: a girl eats watermelon in her nutrition & wellness class)
On Friday, Audrey and Julia had breakfast at MISD’s Keshena Primary School with the students and then witnessed the Smart Sacks program in action. They helped hand out items including pears, black eyed peas, and milk to students who moved along the line of food. The program is impressive not only for its great benefits to student nutrition, but also for how smoothly it is run by the devoted Keshena Primary School staff!
Before they left, our staffers also got to sit in on a nutrition class. Each week a nutrition teacher comes into different classes and teaches students about a different healthy food—last week students learned about watermelon. The teacher went over the health properties of watermelon, read them a story about watermelon, did a watermelon-related craft, gave them slices to eat, and even made a watermelon drink for the kids.
One common thread throughout our trip was the focus on community collaboration. It was clear to our staff that leaders in various areas of the Menominee community are working together to improve the lives of their children and greater community.
You can help support the Smart Sacks program at MISD, and other programs like it, here.