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Brainerd School Board learns of district-wide Native American education initiatives

Ashley Ingebrigtson.jpg
Ashley Ingebrigtson, Native American Education coordinator in the Brainerd School District, tells board members Monday, Oct. 28, about various events and initiatives planned during the school year to help support Native American students. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Several planned events and initiatives throughout the Brainerd School District this year aim to provide support for Native American students in the district and enhance the district’s curriculum in terms of American Indian history.

Ashley Ingebrigtson, Native American Education coordinator, told school board members Monday, Oct. 28, about various events through the Native American Education Program scheduled for the 2019-20 school year.

The program directly serves Native American students in grades pre-K through 12th and is funded through state and federal grants.

Districts, charter and tribal schools with 20 or more American Indian students are eligible to participate in the American Indian Education Aid program through the Minnesota Department of Education.

Staff development

Last June, Anton Treuer, a professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University, talked to certified staff during an in-service day about American Indian education as a staff development initiative.

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Next month, Ingebrigtson, along with Native American student liaison Krystel Sam and the district’s sixth-grade social studies teachers, will attend Mni Sota Makoce curriculum training.

“This curriculum is really designed to work within the curriculum we’re already using,” Ingebrigtson said. “It just kind of digs a little deeper into some of those standards around Dakota history, culture and philosophy.”

Events

In August, the Native American Education Program hosted a backpack event for participating students in need to pick out backpacks and school supplies to help with the upcoming school year. About 142 students participated this year, Ingebrigtson said.

A Wiidookodaadiwag Pow-wow is planned Nov. 15 at Central Lakes College.

“This is our local school district and local community college partnering together creating a bridge for students and just supporting and celebrating our Native American students and Native American culture, and we invite community members to come participate in it,” Ingebrigtson said, noting Wiidookodaadiwag means “we are helping one another.”

Three college tours are planned for high school students in the program this year. The group will tour the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Oct. 30, CLC in March and one more college yet to be determined later in the year. Ingebrigtson said she will take a poll of the students and find out which college they might be interested in visiting.

Student support

While all high school students received personal Chromebooks to use both in school and at home this year, Ingebrigtson said the Native American Education Program also provided Chromebooks to younger students and families in need of extra technological support.

A new initiative this year that is still in the works is a welcome kit of sorts for new Native American students to the district.

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“Something that we can give to students as they enroll in the district to just let them know about the program, who we are and just give recognition to that cultural piece,” Ingebrigtson said.

School presence

When elementary students take standardized tests in both the fall and the spring, the Native Ameican Education Program provides cultural lessons for students during testing rotations.

Over at the high school, Ingebrigtson said the program is partnering with the Mille Lacs Indian Museum to display artifacts and other Native American items in an exhibit at the school for students to observe.

Lastly, the group is working with teachers -- primarily in the elementary schools -- on developing projects geared toward Native American education to add to their curricula.

Board feedback

Board member Tom Haglin asked about any collaborations -- other than the pow-wow -- between the school district and CLC, especially in terms of career and technical education and college readiness.

Board member Charles Black Lance, former chair of the district’s American Indian Parent Advisory Committee and employee of CLC, said both the district and CLC continue to work on beneficial collaborations.

“A lot of doors are opening on both sides of both entities, and we’re beginning to realize what some of the benefits and some of the possibilities are,” Black Lance said. “And quite honestly, even by you, a member of the board, asking such a question kicks a door even further, and that’s significant.”

Ingebrigtson said CLC sometimes hosts cultural films or presentations throughout the school year she will bring students to, noting there is a film in March she plans to attend with a group of students.

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When high school students tour CLC each year, she added, she makes sure to focus on some of the trades programs to showcase multiple secondary education opportunities to students, as the other college visits are usually to bigger universities.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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