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 Northern 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.