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Summer Math and Science Program Strives to Keep Reservation Students in School

Keeping White Earth Reservation’s children in school is a huge challenge, says reservation tribal member Joe LaGarde, Waubun, Minn. Of the 27 or 28 children that are in the average sixth grade class on the reservation, notes LaGarde, typically only five or six will end up graduating from high school.

One program that has been instrumental in encouraging reservation children to stay in school has been the White Earth Reservation’s summer Math and Science program. That program started in 1998 with grant assistance from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Food Systems Professions Education initiative. The program is a partnership between White Earth Reservation and the reservation’s tribal officials, elders, schools and the University of Minnesota (extension and university faculty) and White Earth Tribal College.  

The math and science program draws around 25 students who participate in the five-week program in June and July. LaGarde says the instruction is not in a classroom setting – but rather conducted alongside activities. These activities involve environmental and cultural appreciation.

The program has had a very positive impact on students. Circle of Life High School principal Mitch Vogt reports that the school’s average daily attendance improved from 80 percent in 2001-2002 school year to 87 percent in 2002-2003. The graduation rate also improved from 35 percent in 2001-2002 to 58 percent in 2002-2003. “We have young people return from college and tell us that the math and science program made the difference in their staying in school,” says LaGarde. “I think the program is one of the best things that has happened here.”

The program’s impact is also being seen in rising test scores. Students’ scores on the Department of Defense Education Activity Terra Nova 2002 test improved during the school year by 20 percent in math and 14 percent in science.

The program received the Secretary’s Honor Award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2001.

For more information about the program, contact Joe LaGarde at (218) 935-5531, or by e-mail at suesnet@online.com

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