Success Stories

A Different Beginning

A photo of Mary, a teacher Mary will be teaching the first 9 weeks of this semester virtually.

Mary is an American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) Alum Scholar who teaches on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Graduating with her degree in Elementary Education in 2015, she started her teaching career with a group of eager first graders. In 2016 she reflected on her first day of school with those youngsters:

“On my first day of school I was anxious, nervous, excited, and all the feelings in between. I'd been waiting for my first day of teaching for what felt like forever and could not wait to get started. It was really a storybook day, I read 'First Day Jitters' and had 'Jitter Juice' for all my kids and said, 'After we drink this we'll feel brave, safe, and know that we don't have to feel nervous anymore.' After drinking it one of my students said, 'You're right Miss Mitchell I'm not scared anymore!'"

We returned to ask Mary the same question for her 2020 academic year. She is entering her fifth-year teaching 7th graders during a pandemic. On September 16th, she posted “Happy First Day of School! These past weeks we’ve learned that teachers truly can do VIRTUALLY anything and I’m excited to start our newest adventure!"

A photo of Mary welcoming her students Mary teaches 7th grade on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.

“On my first day of school September 2020, it was something I could have never expected or prepared for. We're doing virtual learning, but our computers didn't come in because of the national high-demand and shortage, so we had to send packets home. Our parents did a drive-thru pickup through the parking lot and we sent the work home with them. Because we don't have computers we can't zoom (video call), we're only able to do phone calls or messages. I'm a 7th-grade science teacher now, so I'm having my students do biweekly science experiments. At lunchtime, after a morning of pickups, I get a picture and a message from a parent that says "Science Experiments on my Lunch Break - He's having fun with the hands-on activities. Thank you!!" I know it is a weird world right now and kind of scary, but that's all I needed to help me see that learning will still happen, it still can be fun, and we will get through this!”

Cheyenne Eagle Butte schools have received AIEF School supplies for many years in the past. This year, they are beginning their first 9-week session virtually. Then, after a reassessment of their community's COVID numbers, they will determine whether they can begin in-person classes. This is similar to how many schools are starting across the nation. The national (and even international) need for electronic devices for students to use at home has created a challenge for Mary, as well as many other teachers, this school year.

Of the 23 Program Partners in the Northern Plains receiving school supplies, 48% were starting school virtually. Another 30% started in person and a few hadn’t determined their method of instruction at the time school supplies went out.

Although many schools are now offering classes virtually, physical school supplies (such as paper and pencils) are still greatly needed- now more than ever. PWNA’s AIEF School Supply service is a consistent resource for tribal communities. Deborah, a program partner with Crazy Horse School in Pine Ridge, recently told us about a grandmother in need of school supplies for her grandchildren before their school's start date:

A photo of school supplies provided to Native American students School supplies are still greatly needed-now more than ever!

"I had a phone call the week before school asking if the students were going to get school supplies because she (grandma) couldn’t afford to get them and she said she would have to wait until after her disability check came in. So, she wasn’t going to send her 5 grandkids until September. I informed her about PWNA and (asked her to) send (them) please, send them right away because they will be getting school supplies. Many students wait until after Labor Day to come because they don’t have school items. I think attendance prior to Labor Day was better this year…Parent were glad the school (and AIEF) assisted with school supplies.”
-Deborah C., Crazy Horse School | Pine Ridge Reservation

Thank you for your support! Your generosity allows AIEF to supply Native American children in schools across the United States with the supplies they need to help them succeed. You are making a difference in a child's life!