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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 5, 2003 - Issue 84


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Federal Program Funds Tutors

by Susan Olp Billings Gazette

PrincessTutor Dee Neiter worked with six Native American students Tuesday at a table in a small room at Riverside Middle School.

Neiter's job is funded through the federal Title VII Indian Education Program and she spends every day helping seventh- and eighth-graders at the South Side school.

"Come on, do your math," she said to one young girl. "Come on, Michael, get out that science book."

She encouraged another girl to write more detailed notes in her academic planner. A few minutes later, she sent them all back to class.

One student, seventh-grader Tami Fire Bear, said she likes Neiter's room more than her other study hall where a larger number of students work in silence.

"With so many kids, it's harder to get help," Tami said. "Here, I can talk with other students and share ideas."

Neiter has seen many students come and go in her years as a tutor at the school. Most of them are high-risk students with low grade point averages.

"Parents sometimes call me at the beginning of the school year to start working with their kids right away," Neiter said. "That way they get a jump start."

Other students come to Neiter through teachers and counselors.

But, she's not just a tutor. "I call it a job advocating for my kids in whatever capacity they need me."

The number of students in the program at Riverside has grown every year, Neiter said. Right now the number fluctuates between 98 and 103.

"Because the reservation is so close, they go back and forth," Neiter said. "And when they're doing that, there are a lot of gaps in their learning."

Neiter is one of four tutors funded by Title VII, according to Victoria Many Bad Horses, part-time coordinator of the program for School District 2.

The program also funds 2.5 positions to help struggling young readers in non-Title schools.

Many Bad Horses also works with the Little Big Horn Teachers Project to bring volunteer academic tutors into the schools.

The annual budget, based on Native American student numbers, is $219,000 this year, she said. School District 2 has about 1,200 Native American students, with the majority of them in elementary school.

One other key component of the program is a Parent Advisory Committee.

"They look at and approve the program design," Many Bad Horses said. "They go over our budget before we turn it in and they sign the grant. Having an active and involved PAC is an important part of the program."

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