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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 1, 2002 - Issue 62


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Head Start Grads Mark First Success

credits: Ray Swanson
Sisters sharingRAPID CITY - Surrounded by graduates in caps and gowns, speaker Bruce Long Fox congratulated the Class of 2002 on Friday and thanked members' parents for setting them on the pathway to a solid future.

The students already have learned so much. Just imagine what they'll do when they get to kindergarten.

At 4 and 5 years old, all 35 graduates of Dakota Transitional Head Start will start kindergarten next fall - and they're ready for the challenge.

"Really, Head Start just prepares them for a kindergarten-classroom setting," DTHS director Anne Reddy said. "They know what it's like to be at a school. They learn how to socialize so that they can go and make friends."

Head Start is a national program that provides developmental services to low-income preschoolers ages 3 to 5 and social services for their families. Like students in any Head Start program, students at DTHS have learned basic math concepts, language skills and motor development.

But DTHS students are different because they also learn about Lakota language and culture. DTHS, a program of Rural America Initiatives, is aimed at families who recently have moved to Rapid City from American Indian reservations, and most of its students are Lakota.

"Some of what we do here is the same as any Head Start program across the nation," Reddy said. "But we really try to show the children that their culture is important, it's important to be proud of it. We try to do some self-esteem building."

On Friday, the self-esteem was evident as the graduates took the stage at Mother Butler Center. Girls in their best dresses and boys in neat blue jeans - one even wore a tie - were honored with drum songs. They received medals and diplomas as the audience clapped and relatives snapped photos.

Despite some fidgeting - and an occasional wrestling match - the children didn't seem nervous. "He woke up this morning all ready to come," said Bobbett Good Shield, whose son, Robert Trueblood, graduated Friday.

Shaina Dreaming Bear was ready, too. "She's been anxious for the past three days," her mom, Sheila Whiteface, said. "She's been waiting and waiting to be big like her sisters."

Despite saying her favorite part of school was "to graduate," Shaina already has big plans for her future.

"She loves babies, and she's already planned for her future to deliver babies," Whiteface said. "She's always saying, 'Mommy, I'm going to bring some babies in, and I'm going to take care of them.'"

First, though, it was time to celebrate.

"This is a happy day," Ben Rhodd, chairman of the Rural America Initiatives Board of Directors, said Friday. "It's a good day that we have our children graduating and having accomplished something. And we're here to honor them."

Parents were honored, too. Because while Head Start helps children make a successful transition to a new stage of life, it also helps parents do the same.

Head Start staffers provide parents with information on such things as nutrition and traditional parenting, and help them find housing, jobs and education.

"Our classrooms really serve as a stable environment for those children until their families can get settled," Reddy said, noting that some Head Start families live in motels when they arrive in Rapid City.

Head Start's staff members know what it's like to make that transition. Most DTHS employees were Head Start parents themselves. The program hires as many of its parents as possible, providing jobs and support as they improve their lives.

Shawnda Schumacher is one success story. Her two children graduated from DTHS, and Schumacher has worked there for six years. Now, she is family-services manager.

Meanwhile, she has attended Oglala Lakota College and will graduate this spring with associate degrees in elementary education and early-childhood education.

"I really give lots of credit to the program," Schumacher said. "I really am grateful for what they've done."

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

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