North Dakota State University

Report date
September 2018

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

The Community Stakeholder Committee (CSC) was essential to making progress on this project and they were selected because of their varied professional backgrounds and roles in the community. These individuals were familiar with issues facing high school students, so they had a vested interest in the success of this project. Their knowledge of the community and understanding of the family dynamics proved to be valuable in developing and implementing interventions to prevent students from dropping out of high school. CDC members had an opportunity to participate in all phases of this project. These meetings provided an opportunity for members to discuss the key factors that impact American Indian high school student dropout rates on Spirit Lake Nation along with the adverse factors that some high schools’ students endure as they try to successfully complete high school.
The second group that was essential to the success of this project was the participants who agreed to be interviewed, 10 who dropped out of high school and 10 who remained in high school. Themes included: School Involvement (Sub-theme: Interest in School, Favorite/Least Favorite Classes, Sense of Belonging, Success in School). Study Skills (Sub-theme: Reading, Prioritizing, Test Taking, Time Management, Technology, Extracurricular Activities), Support in School (Sub-theme: Teachers, Counselors, Mentors, Advisers, Friends in School), Family Support (Sub-theme: Parental Relationships, Parental Support for School, Sibling Support, Grandparent Support, Aunt & Uncle Support), Dropping out of High School (Sub-theme: Others Who Dropped Out, Thoughts of Dropping Out, Parental Discussion about Dropping Out, Reasons to Remain in School, Motivation to Graduate), Challenges in School (Sub-theme: Discrimination, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Verbal Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Dating Abuse, Bullying, Feeling Unsafe at School, Pregnancy, Physical illness, Transportation Issues, Financial Issues, Homelessness, Food, Interacting with Other Cultures, Feeling Isolated from Others, Belonging With Friends, Family
The third group included the two high schools who implemented the interventions. Devils Lake High School (DLHS) used grant funds to hire a Drop-out Prevention Strategist for the district. The strategist is a liaison between the school and high-risk students and their families. Her roles included communicating with families, a driver when students lacked a way to get to school, and a representative of DL Public School System when discussing matters with the BIA social services and BIA juvenile court. The strategist position will be retained because of the positive impact on students and families. DLHS also purchased the social emotional curriculum, 2nd Step Program for the district. The teachers were trained on the used of the program and it will be taught in every classroom from K-8. Warrick High School used their funds to review the grades of 7th – 12th students to identify those at risk of dropping out. Then they implemented a Check & Connect Program where faculty and staff mentored 5-6 students on a weekly basis. Mentors used this time to build rapport with the students and address attendance, grades, college and career readiness and assessments.

Key lessons learned

Initially about 40 Community Stakeholders were invited to the meetings. Keeping the Community Stakeholder Committee members engaged in the long-term participatory process was challenging because originally, we held regular meetings but then they became sporadic because we were completing the interviews, transcriptions, data analysis and writing the reports. The analysis of qualitative data is time consuming and I think that we lost the momentum of the committee. To keep the Stakeholder Committee members engaged, we should have divided them into groups and provided specific duties for the groups to complete. Their assistance with parts of the project would have engaged them and maybe sped up the process. Toward the end of the project when we held the meetings we engaged the committee members by giving a brief update on our progress at the start of each meeting. As the project continued, there was a small core group of Community Stakeholders who attended the meetings and participated in the discussion and decision-making.
American Indians are one of the most misunderstood ethnic groups in the United States. The knowledge that people have about the culture and traditions frequently are not from direct interaction with Natives but instead from stereotypes portrayed in educational programs and mass-media sources. There is a dire need for American Indian students to enroll and graduate from educational programs, but the negative stereotypes and racial name-calling needs to be addressed. The students spoke about how they endured name calling at sporting events or when they leave the reservation for social activities. When I asked them how they handled the racism, many said they ignored it, but one male student reported he wanted to fight but his girlfriend told him to just ignore them.
All the participants interviewed had future educational goals in which they wanted to complete educational programs at vocational schools, colleges, or universities. I agree with Dr. Lindquist that mainstream institutions should expand their outreach to Tribal Colleges so when students transfer, there is personal support and adequate financial aid. There are model programs that can be instituted to assist students.
American Indians and Caucasians have differing world views. When working on reservations, we need to have basic knowledge and respect for the differing world views, values and beliefs. American Indian traditional values include focusing on the group by taking care of people, focusing in the present, elders have knowledge and wisdom, working cooperatively, be patient, listen, generosity, humor, live in harmony with all things, intuitive, humility, spiritual life, and a right time/right place. It was difficult to initially step back and take the time to implement the grant activities because they are time oriented. With coming from different world views and life experiences, it is understandable that cultural faux pas will be made as the partners collaborate on community projects. Open communication, trust and transparency will hopefully prevent or decrease these cultural faux pas as we continue to build our relationships and partnerships. As partners, we need to understand and be sensitive our partners’ cultural perspective and how it may influence their decisions and communication.

Reflections on the community innovation process

There were two elements that continued to be important to the success of this project. The first element was inclusiveness. The Community Stakeholders Committee had a collective understanding of the Spirit Lake Nation high school students drop out rates. Although, they had varying reasons as to why they believed students remained in school vs dropped out of high school. During the meetings, they discussed the issues and generated ideas. This committee was essential to developing the interview questions for both groups and providing support for the interventions proposed by the two high schools.

Progress toward an innovation

Devil Lake High School hired a “Drop-out Prevention Strategist” for the district. The purpose of this position was to have a liaison that would work with our Native American families and other high-risk families on the importance of their adolescence attending school and receiving a high school diploma. From her start date, our Drop Out strategist made or attempted to contact 616 students and their families (January 17-May 25, 2018). She also provided rides for students and drove 4,597 miles transporting students from one location to another (home to school or vice versa). Additionally, Devils Lake purchased the social emotional curriculum for their district. They purchased the 2nd Step Program. This program is a K-8 social emotional program that focuses on developing positive peer interactions. As a district they discovered that many of their students struggle with the day to day activities and how to regulate their emotions. According to the principal, this is especially evident with their Native American population. The principal stated that it was in the district’s best interest to provide their students the tools necessary to assist with regulating their emotions.

What it will take to reach an innovation?

Our goals for this project were met. We are currently working on a booklet outlining the project along with the successes and challenges. This booklet will be shared with appropriate agencies on Spirit Lake Nation and others as identified. We are in the process of drafting a manuscript that focuses on the success of this program.

What's next?

Devils Lake Public School system has committed to sustaining both interventions. They renewed the Drop-out Prevention Strategist 2018-2019 contract, so she will continue to work with students and families at risk. Additionally, the district purchased the social emotional curriculum and the 5 year-license. All their faculty was on how to implement the curriculum and track student measures.
Warwick High School will sustain the Check & Connect Program for 5th through 12th grade students. Additionally, they provided academic support through reading and math programs to fill the educational gaps for students and to get them on the same grade level as their peers. The second intervention was the Summer Intern Program. Students selected for this program completed a job application, interest inventory, interview for potential intern placement, and signed a working agreement outlining their job responsibilities. The students worked a max of 36 hours per week an was paid $10.00 per hour. The Program Coordinator made bi-weekly written reports on job performance, weekly time and attendance. If they implement this program next summer, they plan to work with students on pre-employment skills.

If you could do it all over again...

The first piece of advice I would give myself would be to be prepared for the large amount of time and coordination it takes to implement a community project. The second piece of advise would be to include high school students on the Community Stakeholder Committee. It would have been interesting to hear their perspective on how to prevent students from dropping out of high school.

One last thought

Warwick High School implemented the Check & Connect Program in which two individuals attended the train the trainer training in Minneapolis. Then a Check & Connect Coordinator and 15 mentors were hired and received mentor training. Each mentor was assigned 5-6 at risk students. The mentors received Check & Connect Manuals, Check & Connect Application, and incentive money for Mentor/Mentee activities. Five faculty also attended the North Dakota Fall Educators Drop Out Prevention Summit in Bismarck, ND. They shared the high points of the summit with other faculty and staff who were mentors.
The second intervention implemented was the Summer Intern Program which provided students with employment opportunities that were related to their future employment interests. The Career Cluster Interest Inventory was given to 15 students. They selected 8 students for the summer but as the program developed, 4 decided to pursue other summer opportunities of employment or summer school. The superintendent tried to recruit from the remaining pool of 15 students but there was little success. He reworked the budget and extended the number of weeks for the students. Three students completed.