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Running Strong Dreamstarter Grants for Teachers: Supporting the Educational Needs of  Native Students and Educators

Maya Angelou was quoted as saying “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” This sums up, in part, the combined mission of Running Strong and Dreamstarter teachers. We launched our Dreamstarter Teacher grant program in 2017 as a means of supporting teachers supporting Native students. There are always unmet needs in the classroom, and Dreamstarter Teacher helps bridge the gaps with up to $5,000 in grants for teachers, administrators, and other educators in Native communities.

The Challenges Facing Native American Education and Teachers

You may imagine that the disparities that reservations have struggled with for years permeate their education system as well. And you would be right.

As we noted in “The Poverty Cycle,” Indigenous students are the only student population that did not improve their reading and math testing scores in grades four through eight from 2005–2011.

American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest school drop-out rate while only 25.4% of Native youth receive an associate degree or higher compared to 50.2% of White Americans and 45.7% of the nation as a whole.

The quality of education in native communities does not always provide Indian youth the equitable opportunities they deserve.  

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) currently funds 183 elementary and secondary schools on 64 reservations; 55 are overseen by the bureau and 128 are tribally controlled. They all face five critical issues:

  • Inadequate curriculum
  • Insufficient funds
  • Lack of qualified teachers due to underfunding
  • Outdated or inadequate technology
  • Poor physical infrastructure

The people we serve are well-acquainted with these challenges, and by supporting teachers on reservations, we hope to alleviate some of the struggles that these schools and students have historically faced.

The Impact of Our Dreamstarter Teacher Grants

For six years we have awarded Dreamstarter grants for teachers so that they are better equipped to provide the education that Native youth deserve. Here are just a few of the stories we’re proud to be a part of:

Jonna Wiedaw teaches students from the Pomo, Cherokee, Elem, and Miwok tribes. She used her Dreamstarter Teacher grant for her “Leaders and Warriors” program. This program connects Indigenous youth with Native cultural leaders so students can learn lessons about cultural practices and increase their awareness of their cultural identity.

She says, “As an educator, I believe that every student deserves a school program in which their culture and identity is reflected across the curriculum and embedded as part of the school vision.”

Gwendolyn Couture teaches Native American studies and Ronan High School on the Flathead Indian Reservation. She used her Dreamstarter Teacher grant to create educational podcasts about issues related to the reservation and its history.

Amanda Garner is a counselor at Webbers Falls Schools serving Cherokee students. She noted that she didn’t have many “social, emotional resources” for her students and they had “a few hard years.”

“In May of 2019, the entire town of Webbers Falls was flooded. Many families lost their homes and business. In addition to personal loss, they lost their school and all summer activities.” With her Dreamstarter Grant, Amanda was able to purchase resources and materials to help teach life skills and address social and emotional issues. 

Jennifer John teaches in Albuquerque, New Mexico and serves Navajo, Pueblo, Apache, Blackfeet, Lakota, Manda, Omaha, and Kiowas students as well as many others.

She used her Dreamstarter Teacher grant to increase Indigenous children’s literature in the classroom, create a curriculum that supports it, and promote reading and writing.

She said, “ The long-term impact is that the indigenous students at the school will have access to books that are culturally and linguistically responsive to them. They will interact and analyze these books while learning relevant grade level ELA and Social Studies standards.”

Dreamstarter Grants for Teachers

We are still taking applications for 2023 Dreamstarter Teachers through June 16th, 2023.

We have already helped dozens of teachers, counselors, librarians, and administrators make a positive impact in their students’ lives with these grants. It is our continued hope that we can improve individuals and communities by narrowing the disparity divides and providing better access to quality education and supportive resources.

If you are interested in applying for a Dreamstarter Teacher grant, please visit:

If you are not an educator but would like to support our cause, please visit:

We thank you, in advance, for your interest and your support!

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