Learning and Growing on the Fort Belknap Reservation 

The fundamentals of education are critical at a young age, yet only half the Native students who start kindergarten will go on to finish high school. We support Native students with scholarships and educational tools through the American Indian Education Fund® (AIEF) program of Partnership With Native Americans® (PWNA). Siblings Emmika, Kaydence, and De’Jon on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana share a love of math, but they all have different dreams and were thrilled to receive new backpacks and school supplies to support them. 

Partnership With Native Americans® (PWNA) knows that the fundamentals of education are critical at a young age, yet unless something changes, only half the Native students who start kindergarten will go on to finish high school. PWNA supports Native students with scholarships and educational tools to support their learning. 

This year, Native American students across 20 reservations received school supplies through PWNA’s American Indian Education Fund® (AIEF) program. This gave nearly 13,000 students the basic tools they needed for back-to-school, like backpacks, notebooks and pencils.  

Siblings Emmika, Kaydence, and De’Jon attend school in Harlem, Montana, on the Fort Belknap Reservation. Their mom Elizabeth said her family would struggle without AIEF donors. To get school supplies, she’d normally drive to Haver, a town located 43 miles away. She told us, “It’s kind of a lot of money just to go there.”  

During a typical year, Elizabeth would spend $60 between her three children to get them the basic necessities. She noted, “Backpacks are really great. There are a lot of kids that go through the school year, and they don’t have one. And that’s a big thing they need to have.” 

Elizabeth’s family doesn’t receive any help with bills. Instead, she holds down two jobs, working at the local casino and at Harlem Elementary as the assistant cook. At home, her husband breeds bulldogs. 

All of Elizabeth’s children share a love of math, but they all have different dreams. 

Emmika, age 13, is entering a new school this year as she moves on to junior high. She enjoys math, science, and social studies and plans to “own a big business” one day. That business will be building homes, a goal inspired by the building games she plays with her dad. “He showed me about business,” she stated proudly. Emmika is grateful to get a new notebook for taking notes in class. 

Kaydence, age 10, is still deciding what she wants to do when she grows up, but she has her priorities for making the most out of fifth grade. After a summer of baseball and fishing, she’s ready to continue the outdoor fun with recess. She keeps her brain active with math, which she finds easy, and she loves art. She draws in her spare time and is excited for her new supplies to help further her talents. 

The youngest is 7-year-old De’Jon, who is ready to take on the second grade. “I like learning stuff,” he shared. De’Jon’s best subject is math and said, “The easiest thing to do is subtraction.” He also enjoys physical education with dreams of being a professional wrestler. For now, he’s content to play tag with his friends and to draw in his new notebook. 

All three children read at home for an hour every day. They all prefer the fantasy genre to keep their imaginations active as they continue to learn and grow.  

In 2018, high school graduation rates for Native Americans averaged 73%. The dreams of Native students need support, and that starts with having what they need for the classroom. You can show your support by donating to AIEF today. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*