Carly Retterath of Mandan, North Dakota, is the director of alternative education at Mandan Public School serving students of the Standing Rock Nation, Spirit Lake Nation, Three Affiliated Tribes, and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
Carly used her $1,000 Dreamstarter Teacher grant to provide the Four Directions student club with funds to complete cultural activities, go on field trips and host community events, such as a back-to-school night for Native families, and to learn more about their culture and share that knowledge with the larger community.
Her grant funding, which benefited 100 students, was used in three specific ways – purchasing gas cards to provide to students and their families so they could attend events in the evening, to support cultural activities including buying craft items and educational materials and honorariums for guest speakers, as well as to sponsor parent nights for the school district’s Native American students and families.
Carly noted that the overall student participation in the Four Directions club “increasing significantly” during the school year.
“At the end of the school year we consistently had 25-40 students participating in the weekly Four Directions meetings,” she reported. “This was an increase from 10-15 at the beginning of the school year.”
In addition, non-Native American students were participating which has had tremendous positive impacts on our school culture.
And in another measure of the program’s success, “Our spring parents’ night had over 50 parents in attendance which is the highest attendance we have ever had at an event like that. We are hoping to carry that momentum into this upcoming school year.”
Carly told of one high school student currently in the foster care system who was “struggling with finding success at school.
“A friend got him to attend a Four Directions meeting and there this student was able to make connections with adults and other students who understood his culture and gave him a sense of normalcy that he was lacking outside of school,” said Carly.
“This connection helped to improve his school attendance and reduced is behavior issues.
“He still has a long way to go but the Four Directions Club has helped to anchor him to something positive and keeps him showing up.”
In sum, Carly added, “Projects like the Four Directions Club provide the perfect foundation for our Native students to discover who they are and educate our non-Native students in the cultural of our local Native American people.
“Watching our students both Native and non-Native connect, spend time together, and learn together has been so powerful. This grant helped us to expand the educational opportunities we can provide our students.”