2019 Running Strong for American Indian Youth Dreamstarter Teacher Jennifer Schoelerman is a pre-K school counselor in the Timber Lake School District in north central South Dakota that includes portions of the both the Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock Sioux Indian reservations.
Timber Lake School has the distinction of being designated as Exemplary – High Performing High School, a National Title I Distinguished High School and a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
On the 2016-2017 state assessments, the school’s Native American students scored 32 percent higher on English/Language arts than that of the state’s overall percentage for indigenous students. In math, the school’s Native American students scored 38 percent higher than their peers statewide.
Jennifer, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, became a school counselor to help students achieve their academic potential.
“Many of our students come from impoverished areas and home life,” she told us. “However, they are safe in school. They are safe for the eight hours they are in our care. I became a school counselor because I wanted to make a difference on a local level.”
Since Jennifer started working at Timber Lake, she has been trying to implement more Native American activities into the school and has established a library of Native American books for young people that tell stories and are based around Native children.
“We have recently developed a Native American Club for high school students,” said Jennifer. “I was asked to be the advisor of the newly-organized club. We would like to have a yearly honoring for the graduates, and in order to do that we would like to give the speaker and drum group an honorarium for their time and expertise.”
Additionally, the Native American Club has expressed interest into enriching their community by decorating local sanitation bins with funds from her Dreamstarter Teacher grant.
At the culmination of the school year, Jennifer and the Native American Club hosted an Honoring Ceremony for all the graduating seniors, which includes presenting them with a star quilt.
“This has been a wonderful addition to celebrating the students who have graduated,” she reported.
“I appreciate the supporters of Running Strong who made this Dreamstarter Teacher grant a reality. Without this grant we would not have had the 2019 Honoring of the students at Timber Lake High School.”