and school is in session at Minneapolis' Native Academy.
out of a Lake Street storefront across the street from McDonald's,
the place is a hive of teenage activity, with dozens of students
-- mostly American Indians -- toiling away on the computers.
Academy is at the forefront of efforts to raise American Indian
student performance, so often weighted down by poverty and transience.
It has a simple, overarching mission: To make American Indian kids
better students with better prospects for life after high school.
work just got easier: The U.S. Department of Education announced
this week that the school's parent organization -- Migizi Communications
Inc. -- will get a million-dollar grant over three years.
the first year, Migizi gets $348,131. Amounts in the second and
third years are slightly less.
Graham Hartley, education directorTom SweeneyThat amount rivals
the $1.1 million grant given to the entire Minneapolis School District
for its American Indian programs.
Migizi, it's a big boost -- each year's grant amount is about one-third
of the organization's annual budget, said its education director,
administrators said the grant will enable them to launch a new emphasis
on helping American Indian high school students in math, science,
technology and engineering. President Laura Waterman Wittstock said
such fields are keys to the nation's future, and American Indian
kids have to get on that career elevator.
Indians are just way down in terms of representation in those fields,"
Migizi (which is Ojibwe for "bald eagle") is trying to
boost low American Indian graduation rates. According to Minneapolis
schools figures the graduation rates for American Indian students
in the 2001-02 school year was only slightly over 30 percent.
said there are signs the program is bearing fruit, and Minneapolis
district statistics seem to back that up. School attendance for
Native Academy kids is better than for other American Indian students
in Minneapolis, and basic-skills test scores for Native Academy
kids are higher than other American Indian students. For instance,
Native Academy eighth- and ninth-grade passing rates were 20 percentage
points higher on the state basic-skills math test than those for
Minneapolis American Indian students who didn't attend Native Academy.
Migizi's Native Academy is not really a school. Its teachers mostly
work in Minneapolis schools with other teachers in predominantly
American Indian classrooms. They monitor homework assignments, talk
to parents, and sometimes attend parent-teacher conferences because
parents feel more comfortable having them around. Plus, the academy
hosts after-school programs and offers a place where kids can come
in and do their homework.
the program is aimed at American Indians, others are not excluded.
Hartley said about 25 percent of the 250 young people served by
the academy in Minneapolis secondary schools are non-Indian. According
to Minnesota Department of Education statistics, there are 1,789
American Indian students at all grade levels in Minneapolis schools.
Out of those, Minneapolis statistics show that 959 are enrolled
in grades six through 12.
academy was started in 1995, but Migizi has been going since 1977.
It was initially planned as a training program for American Indian
journalists, focusing on radio. But as the years went by, the journalism
gave way to an emphasis on education. The organization also operates
a fitness program in the same building as the academy.
week, ninth-graders prepared for their move to high school in September,
finishing up computer projects on iBook laptops. The assignment
was to do multimedia presentations of their educational and career
who finish their summer Native Academy projects get $100. But academy
administrators and teachers hope they will get something more --
a seamless transition from the eighth grade to that critical first
year at high school. The students in this particular class are coming
out of three Minneapolis middle schools and heading next month for
the All Nations American Indian magnet program at South High School,
which has the highest percentage of American Indian students of
any Minneapolis high school.
the computer work that commanded students' attention, there is a
social aspect to the program. The idea is to introduce the kids
who will be attending South's All Nations program as freshmen next
month to each other.
can make new friends, so you already have friends when you get to
high school," said Camille Papasodora, 17, who works at the
academy as a mentor for the ninth-graders.