The Division of Indian Work in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a longtime partner of Running Strong for American Indian Youth®, has been serving the urban Native American community in the Twin Cities since 1952.
But perhaps at no point in its storied history have the Native youth of the Twin Cities faced more challenges than today.
And that’s why Running Strong’s most recent grant to support their Youth Leadership Development Program is more important than ever.
The YLDP serves about 50 American Indian youth from many tribes, predominantly Dakota, Ojibwa and Lakota (although DIW has served as many as 26 tribal nations with its programs), ages 5 to 17 with after school academic support and tutoring, as well as help with attendance issues — all supplemented with cultural and recreational activities, and cultural, educational and recreational field trips.
Ardie Medina, Development Officer for DIW, noted that last year as soon as the order went out from the governor to limit gatherings to 10, DIW began to adjust its programs accordingly.
“We will use Running Strong’s grant to support paying elders and consultants who come in to do traditional teachings and cultural arts and activities with the kids,” Ardie told us.
“Once the stay-at-home order came through, the majority of DIW staff began to work remotely and adapt the delivery of services to our clients to what we could safely accomplish,” she reported.
- Using everyday Dakota or Ojibwe language when interacting (“Thank you”, “Good job!”, “See you later!”);
- Connecting Ojibwe and Dakota language to vocabulary in books they read;
- Incorporating traditional Ojibwe or Dakota stories into our lessons in comparison to the books in our intervention kits;
- Reading books by Native authors and learning about Native culture, life, and history; and
- Traditional Ojiwbe and Dakota activities, such as lacrosse.
“We will also use the Running Strong grant for supplies, printing, and copying expenses. YLDP provides year-round programming through five components: academic support and tutoring supplemented with academic, cultural, and recreational activities; alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention, reading and literacy skills improvement; school attendance support; and a six-week summer program.”
“[With Running Strong’s support,] Staff provided them access to continued traditional teachings, homework assistance, and various educational games to keep them engaged,” she told us.
She added that as staff members also knew that the kids were missing seeing each other and attending culture groups in person, they put together a video to share with the kids, which included “signs saying how much they love the kids and miss them.”
“The kids absolutely loved the video!”
And that video was the embodiment of the concern that Running Strong and DIW has for the students in its YLDP.
“They are eager to learn in the right environment and revel in making any kind of academic, social, and cultural progress,” says Ardie. “Sometimes they are shy, they are also very bright, funny, love to laugh and are delightful characters.
“They just need someone to take an interest in them and believe in their ability to reach their full potential.
“With so much that challenges our young people, we are always heartened by the [support to help the] progress they make and the obstacles they overcome when they are given guidance to work through it, encouragement to grow and caring role models to make them feel safe, special and capable.”