Shayleena was a 17-year-old senior when Cheryl recommended to her that she apply for a Dreamstarter grant to realize her dream: Wailaki Kun-nes Ba-kang-ish-naa-gai (Wailaki Language, Around It, My Heart Travels).
“I will teach Wailaki language to the greater Wailaki community through the use of social media programs,” she told us, sharing information on a Wailaki Facebook page to include a Wailaki word of the day, Wailaki traditional stories, Wailaki prayers and language for everyday purposes, along with a link to a Wailaki language website that would permanently store the Facebook page information, as well as holding events in the community.
In the years since receiving her $10,000 Dreamstarter grant, Shayleena and Cheryl have been working to continue her project and expand upon it to include the Yuki language as well.
As Cheryl explained, “At Round Valley Unified School District, we teach two Native languages, Wailaki and Yuki. Shayleena’s Dreamstarter project has been on promoting the Wailaki language and in ‘Keeping the Dream Alive,’ we will continue to promote teaching and learning Wailaki, and we also will support the Yuki language program by making sure that whatever games we produce in Wailaki, we also produce in Yuki so students will have better access to both Native languages.”
Cheryl reported that Shayleena’s ongoing Dreamstarter project is making a huge difference in the lives of students who were struggling and not doing well in their regular school classes.
Among them is Danny, a 7th- grader who had to go out on Independent Study because he could not behave and refused to do his schoolwork.
“He has decided to try to come to school again and one of the hooks for him is the Wailaki language,” reported Cheryl. “While he is not showing interest in the regular subjects, he is showing interest in Wailaki.
“He is currently working on a game we created online and is taking a lot of pride in learning the lessons and being first on the ‘leader board.’ By being able to create games using a Native language, we may be able to keep more of our Native youth in school.”
Another boy, a 6th-grader named Kaden, is excelling in Wailaki.
“He knows more than any other student in middle school,” she told us. “Kaden is very bright, but in the past he has not excelled in school and had discipline problems and poor attendance.
“I am noticing this year, Kaden has been able to remake himself and become a top student. Having access to his Native language has helped him feel welcomed and important at school… being able to experience the language in a fun way through games has facilitated his interest.”
Cheryl added that her students love learning the Wailiki and Yuki language through games.
“Through this grant, we are able to give our students games made in a Native American language. By having ‘real’ games and game boards, our language can be respected and students feel like their culture is valued.
“Thank you for your generosity. Running Strong is making a big difference in our school by helping us to bring Native language and culture to our students in a creative and quality way.”