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August E-News: Emergency food, water projects, and back to school!

Frozen food boxes reach Navajo amidst coronavirus spike

This week, Navajo Nation health officials reported 19 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths. That brings the total number of Navajo residents infected to 9,519, and 6,996 have recovered. The Navajo Nation lifted its stay-at-home order last Sunday, but is encouraging residents to leave their homes only for emergencies or essential activities. Much of the Navajo Nation has been closed since March as the coronavirus swept through the reservation which extends through New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona.

Earlier this week however, thanks to the supporters of Running Strong for American Indian Youth, we were able to deliver a large shipment of frozen food boxes to Navajo Nation. 2019 Dreamstarter Jacob Crane organized multiple food drives alongside the Utah Navajo Covid-19 Relief Program, unloading by hand over 2,000 boxes of frozen barbecue, pork, chicken, and cheese onto six trucks bound for Red Mesa, Monument Valley, Aneth, Oljato, Mexican Water, and Montezuma Creek.

“I want to extend a special thank you to Running Strong for American Indian Youth for providing so much for families and elders in need,” Jacob said. “You don’t know just how much of a difference you’re making. A lot of families were going hungry until the food came.”

Protein boxes such as these are among the most expensive available; fortunately, due to a supplemental grant from USDA, we were able to provide these nutrient-dense meals where they matter most. Neither would have been possible without the supporters of Running Strong showing their commitment to the most vulnerable among us during these trying times.

Rotary Water Match Runs Strong

The summer is beginning to wind down, but our water projects team on Pine Ridge are keeping up a strong effort to bring running water to 30 families this year as part of our 3-30-300 matching challenge with the Boulder Rotary Club. The Boulder Rotary Club has partnered with Running Strong in a commitment to bring water to 30 families in 2020, and 300 families in 2021 and beyond. Recipients from earlier this summer include Clarissa Shangreaux of Kyle, SD, who had lived without running water for the past two decades, during which she remained helpless on the tribal waiting list.

“I have not had water for 20 years despite all the programs that were offered,” Clarissa said. She learned about the water connection program offered by Running Strong from family and friends, and thanks to our supporters, was able to have running water in her home for her and her 2 children. Now she no longer needs to leave the house to get water for her family, and instead can spend more time at home raising her two children as they begin virtual learning.

Elsewhere in Kyle, Yolanda Clifford and her two children had been without water for 3 years. Yolanda’s family had been forced out of their permanent residence due to lack of running water, and even though she contacted multiple contractors for a quote to dig a connection to the line 300 feet away the cost was still out of reach. Yolanda and her family had instead been renting a home with water until she learned about the Running Strong water connection program from social media. Ken and our team of contractors were quickly able to resolve the problem, which means Yolanda and her children can move back into their permanent home. Now, Yolanda can focus on caring for her 13 year old and 2 year old and not worry about paying extra rent just to have running water.

These kinds of stories are what motivates us to keep working hard at Running Strong, and we cannot thank our supporters enough for making it all possible!

Back to School Across Indian Country With the Supplies Children Need Thanks to the Supporters of Running Strong

Former Running Strong Dreamstarter JoRee LaFrance, is a board member with the Bridge Foundation in Billings, Montana, which provides services and support to Apsáalooke and Norther Cheyenne students who received backpacks filled with school supplies thanks to the supporters of Running Strong for American Indian Youth®.

“There is a very high unemployment rate on the Crow Reservation which in turn adversely impacts the social and economic stability of my people,” said JoRee who requested 600 elementary and junior high backpacks and school kits for the students on the reservation. “COVID-19 has amplified the disparities that my community faces.”

Schools throughout Indian Country will soon be starting classes, if they haven’t already, and whether in person, or virtually, thousands of Native American school children need pencils, paper, and all the other “tools for school” they need in order to have a successful academic year.

This month, we shipped 5,000 backpacks and school kits to our partners in Oklahoma, Montana, Colorado, Minnesota, Utah, California, South Dakota, and our own field office, Tipi Waste Un Zanipi (Wellness Through A Good Home) on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The backpacks for elementary school students included everything they need for a successful school year, including binders and filler paper, spiral notebooks, pencils, pens and crayons, erasers, rulers, scissors and more, while the ones for middle school include highlighters, colored pencils, a protractor (remember those?), and even a calculator.

All of these items are required by the schools systems, but in the majority of cases, parents simply cannot afford the cost when there are bills to be paid and food must be put on the table: those are their understandable priorities, but that doesn’t mean that their children should arrive at school empty-handed.

“There are many needs in my community and am very grateful that Running Strong has provided some remedy for my people,” says JoRee.

2020-2021 Dreamstarter Teachers Announced

In August, Running Strong announced our 2020-2021 cohort of nine Dreamstarter Teachers, each of whom are receiving grants of between $500 and $1,000 to improve their ability to educate their Native American students in the classroom.

They are:

*Joe Dukepoo (Round Valley Indian Tribes) is a math teacher at Round Valley Middle School in Covelo, California, which serves the Round Valley Reservation, the second largest Indian reservation in the state.

*Benjamin England (Colville) is a K-12 fitness and health teacher in the Inchelium School District in Inchelium, Washington, on the Colville Indian Reservation where 90 percent of students are enrolled tribal members or descendants of tribal members.

*Misty Krohn (Colville Confederated Tribes) is a reading, math, writing, science, social studies and social/emotional learning kindergarten teacher at Lake Roosevelt Elementary School in Coulee Dam, Washington on the Colville Confederated Tribes Reservation.

*Jenna LaViolette (Osage) is also a 2016 Running Strong Dreamstarter who is continuing to realize her dream of teaching Native-inspired ballet and dance in the public school system in Pawhuska Elementary School in Oklahoma where she teaches third and fourth grade students.

*Connie Michael (Crow) is a fifth grade math, science, English language arts and social studies teacher at the Crow Agency Public School in Billings, Montana on the Crow Reservation.

*Olivia Penny-Nicholson (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) teaches life skills to sixth, seventh and eighth grade students at Cherokee Middle School in Cherokee, North Carolina, in rural western North Carolina on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians tribal reservation.

*Kelly Silk (Standing Rock Sioux) is a fourth grade English/language arts, math, social studies and science teacher at Whittier Elementary in the Great Falls, MT, School District

*John Twichel (Sault Tribe) is a sixth and seventh grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teacher at the Sault Area Middle School in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan.

*Candis Yazzie (Navajo) is a K-5 Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) teacher at Dzil Libei Elementary and Tsinaabaas Habitiin Elementary schools in the Tuba City Unified School District on the Navajo Nation in Arizona.

To learn more about our Dreamstarter Teachers and their projects, please visit https://indianyouth.org/2020-2021-dreamstarter-teachers/

Smart Sacks Ensure Hundreds of Menominee Children Don’t Arrive at School Hungry on Monday Mornings

When the Keshena Primary School opens in September, for the next 15 weeks thanks to the supporters of Running Strong for American Indian Youth, each Friday afternoon 450 Menominee children will be heading home with a Smart Sack.

They’re called “Smart Sacks” for good reason – a child who does not have access to healthy food all weekend is not going to be focusing on their studies when they return to school on Monday mornings.

When it was reported to Running Strong for American Indian Youth® more than a decade ago by administrators and teachers in the Menominee Indian School District in Keshena, Wisconsin that students were arriving to school hungry and lethargic, we knew we had to take action.

“Our school district suffers from a high rate of poverty,” reported Menominee Indian School District Superintendent Wendell Waukau. “Our teachers have documented that this lack of food causes fatigue, absenteeism, and poor health, and is impacting the children’s ability to learn.”

From then on, thanks to our supporters we have been able to provide a Smart Sack – a backpack or grocery bag full of non-perishable food items for hundreds of Menominee elementary school students to take home on Friday afternoons ensuring that they, and their family members have plenty of food for the weekend.


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