At Running Strong for American Indian Youth® know the importance of providing Native American children with pencils, notebooks, rulers, glue and all the other supplies they need to get off to great new school year. That’s why each summer we ship thousands of backpacks filled with these items to our field office on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and our partners throughout Indian Country.
For too many families, school supplies often stretch already tight budgets.
So in the coming weeks, we will be shipping several thousand school supply kits and backpacks for Native American elementary and middle school students in Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Montana, South Dakota and elsewhere, just in time for the new school year.
Among them is our longtime partner in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, the Yuchi Language Project, which is striving “to keep alive the rich heritage of the Yuchi people by creating new, young speakers of our unique language through breath-to-breath immersion methods with elders and children,” says project administrator Haley Turning Heart who this year requested 50 StudyStrong elementary and 50 junior high backpacks filled with school supplies.
“Many of our Yuchi families are living at or below poverty level and it’s very difficult for parents to provide school supplies for their children each year,” says Halay. “The items you provide ensure that the students’ needs are met, which makes a great impact on our community.”
In Garryowen, Montana, our partner Biiluuke Strong has requested a total of 400 StudyStrong backpacks for elementary and junior high students where “our communities are all under the national poverty level, with many homes without water, electricity and some without heating during the winter months and without cooling during the summer months,” says founder Ember Singer.
“The items Running Strong for American Indian Youth® sends to Biiluuke Strong are needed not only for Indian youth in our programs, but for the youth in the communities we serve,” she told us. “Some families can’t afford school supplies.
“I’ve noticed an increase in positive attitudes when we distribute these items to our kids,” added Ember. “They gladly accept them and feel good about themselves when they have them.
“Having these much-needed essential items builds their self-esteem and confidence, which in turn helps to build their self-identity and pride of coming from a Native American community.”
And on the Lake Traverse Reservation in Summit, South Dakota (pop. 287), the K-12 school serves approximately 170 students and “our school works hard to provide additional help when we can for families in need,” says the school district’s business official Kaitlyn Christofferson who requested a total of 100 elementary and junior high StudyStrong backpacks.
“Running Strong for American Indian Youth® is providing such a great service with their sturdy, strong kits,” says Kaitlyn. “Some families dread the back-to-school season because it can become very expensive. When students’ parents cannot afford necessary items such as crayons and backpacks, their self-esteem can be affected which can have a negative outcome on the student’s learning abilities and behavior.”
Running Strong co-founder and Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills, having grown up on Pine Ridge and orphaned by age 12, understands what it’s like for these children whose parents, try as they might, cannot afford what most Americans consider to be basic necessities, and that includes school supplies.
“I understand because I have lived through it, but thanks to so many across the country with compassionate, generous hearts, come the first day of school for thousands they thankfully will never know embarrassment of arriving to class empty handed – and for that I am eternally grateful,” says Billy.