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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 4, 2003 - Issue 97


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Crow Student Invited to Teen Conference


by Donna Healy Billings Gazette


Lucretia Birdinground with her father, Orrin Alden. and SchoolKiT Education Manager, Sonny MaganaST. LABRE – For a Crow high school junior, winning a national science competition was definitely not the last straw.

In 2001, Lucretia Birdinground, a junior at St. Labre Indian School, was part of a team of four eighth-grade girls who won the grand prize in the Bayer/National Science Foundation competition for a project on straw-bale housing construction. The prestigious competition challenges middle school students to use science and technology to make their community a better place.

Since winning the competition, Birdinground, who emerged as the group's spokesperson, has appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," met former Vice President Al Gore and will soon head to Louisiana to talk about teen leadership and community involvement.

Their project, which demonstrated how straw-bale construction could help ease the housing shortage on the Crow reservation, attracted national media attention. The girls used the $25,000 prize and money from their Oprah appearance to build a community study hall in summer 2002 to demonstrate straw-bale construction.

Seattle-based Red Feather Development Group, which had built the first straw-bale house on the Crow reservation, designed the after-school study hall.

Last October, Birdinground spoke at a conference in Tennessee sponsored by Gore and his wife, Tipper.

On Sept. 26, Birdinground and her mother, Glenette Alden, will leave for Baton Rouge, La., to speak at a teen conference sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield through the insurance company's foundation, The Caring Program for Children.

"I'm just going to tell them how we got into doing the project and what process we went through," Birdinground said during a phone interview from school.

Her keynote speech on Sept. 30 is geared toward encouraging teens to become more involved in their communities.

"I never really thought that a group of teenagers could ever do anything so amazing in their community," Birdinground said. "I never thought I could ever make a difference in my community. Now that I have, I truly believe every person has a spirit of leadership in them."

Lucretia Birdinground and the other team members – Kimberly Deputee, Omney Sees the Ground and Brenett StewartThe science project changed her outlook on life.

"I'd say I was kind of a slacker before. It kind of changed my outlook on school as well," she said.

She is looking forward to going to college and hopes to remain active in community development projects.

Birdinground has gotten a great deal of support for her efforts at St. Labre. She and the other team members – Kimberly Deputee, Omney Sees the Ground and Brenett Stewart – were students at Pretty Eagle Catholic School in St. Xavier when they completed the science project.

Birdinground also attributes her success to her family's support.

"They just always pushed me to the limit and made me do more," she said, "and I really thank them for that."

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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