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Feb 28, 2017

NAAF Kids Give Back to the Community!

Dear Friends,

Our Spring Semester is in full swing, and it’s been a great year so far for the Gu Vo Academic After School Program! Thanks to your kind and generous donations, we continue to grow, and to provide the amazing children of the Gu Vo District with the opportunity to hone their academic skills through tutoring and homework help, lessons and activities rooted in STEM, and our Too Good for Drugs curriculum.

Due to its remote location, the Gu Vo District faces unique challenges. At over 50%, dropout rates are among the highest in the country. Over 70% of the adult population suffers from type 2 diabetes, due in large part to the lack of access to healthy, nutritious foods. As the only nonprofit providing academic services to the Tohono O’odham Nation, our mission is to combat these challenges by providing quality academic assistance, and healthy, delicious meals served according to USDA standards. We believe education is the key to bringing about positive change, and a better quality of life, and we are proud to say that, since its inception in 2011, none of the kids enrolled in our programs have dropped out of school, or out of the program.

We are excited to announce our brand new Earth Bench and Community Garden, which were officially completed earlier this month. Pictures of the project are included in this report. In partnership with FoodCorps Arizona, we work to connect kids to healthy food while in school. FoodCorps is a nationwide team of AmeriCorps leaders who connect kids to real food and help them grow up healthy. These leaders are in limited-resource communities where they teach hands-on lessons about food and nutrition; build and tend school gardens, and teach cooking lessons; and help change what’s on lunch trays giving kids healthy food from local farms. STEM lessons from the garden are brought into the classroom daily.

On Sunday, February 12th, Healthy People Coalition and NAAF hosted a community project in Gu Vo District. NAAF students and community members joined together to build an earth bench at the Gu Vo Community Building. The bench framework is a sustainable, recycled construction of wood and “clean” litter – empty plastic bottles and paper. Finished off with homemade mud-and-straw cement, the earth bench can seat up to six people, with a backrest sculpted in the shape of one of Gu Vo District’s sacred mountains. A large ramada emblazoned with Tohono O’odham Peace on Earth Bench provides shade from the hot desert sun or a respite from the monsoon rains.

The project came about through the efforts of Girls’ Voices, a Gu Vo community group of five young women dedicated to self-empowerment through autobiographical storytelling on YouTube. These socially conscious youth wanted a way to give back to their home.  With the help of community members, as well as Brennan Bird from Peace on Earth Bench and Claire Kaufman from, the earth bench is a tremendous success, as well as a great place to rest and reflect.

Projects like the garden and Earth Bench are an exciting way for the kids to connect to their community in a positive way that gives something valuable back to the community. Projects like these are only possible through the dedication of our staff and volunteers, and of course, through your donations. Thank you so much for being a part of our mission to bring quality education, healthy meals, and opportunity to the children of the Gu Vo District. We truly cannot thank you enough!

Jeremy Paxton
Director of Development
Native American Advancement Foundation (NAAF)

Working hard
Working hard
Dec 20, 2016

Summer Sunshine: Happy and Healthy!

Summer Sunshine Award!
Summer Sunshine Award!

Dear Friends,

NAAF’s Summer Adventure Program was a big hit this year, with more than 40 kids participating at the Al Jek and Sells Recreation centers. This year we partnered with the USDA and Arizona Department of Education to bring our kids delicious and nutritious meals every day, and we are proud to report that we are the recipients of the Summer Sunshine Award for the category of Reaching Rural, Tribal, and/or Underserved Communities, which recognizes sponsors who operate exemplary summer meal programs. What a great way to recognize all the hard work and dedication our staff and volunteers put into an outstanding summer program!

In a community where over 70% of the adult population lives with diabetes, it is so important to make health and nutrition part of the educational process. Through NAAF’s partnership with the USDA and AZDE, we were able to present healthy, balanced meals that provide the much needed fuel the kids need to have a happy and active lifestyle. The kids enjoyed the meals, and put their energy to good use, playing sports and swimming, and engaging in academic studies.

In addition to health and wellness, our Academic Summer Adventure Program seeks to keep kids engaged in academic lessons through the summer. We focus on teaching reading, writing, math, technology, science and other STEM activities, and health education. Also incorporated are the teaching and development of traditional Tohono O'odham art, handcrafts, language, gardening, and cultural history. The program also combines physical and psychological safety, supportive relationships, appropriate structure, athletics, opportunities to belong, positive social norms, support for efficacy and mattering, opportunities for skill building, and integration of family, school, and community efforts into the program. 

This year, the kids had a blast going on some very exciting field trips, too. From touring the local radio station, to visiting the Pima Air and Space museum and chatting with WWII veterans, to swimming the public pools at Ajo and Sells to beat the summer heat, the kids stayed active mentally and physically and had a good time doing it. It was a fantastic summer, with great new memories and important life lessons.

The Academic Summer Adventure Program does so much good for so many deserving kids, and you are a big part of making that possible. Thanks to your kind and generous donations, we can continue to make a positive impact on the lives of these incredible kids. On behalf of the entire NAAF staff and volunteers, and all of the kids and families involved in the Summer Adventure Program, thank you so much for your continuing support. We continue to see positive changes in a community that struggles with high dropout rates, diabetes, and substance abuse by keeping kids engaged in healthy and growth oriented activities, and we couldn’t do it without your help. Thank you!

T.O. Word of the Day
T.O. Word of the Day
Dec 2, 2016

Gu Vo After-School Program: Full Speed Ahead!

Dear friends,

NAAF’s Academic After-School Program is in full swing, and thanks to your kind and generous support we continue to grow and thrive in our mission to provide a safe environment for the children of the Gu Vo District to hone their academic skills, strengthen their ties to their culture and community, and to enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle free from the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Today on the Tohono O’odham Nation, where a 51% dropout rate continues to be the norm, students like River and Tia (pictured below) face endless obstacles on the path to completing high school. Bright, passionate, dedicated youth like River and Tia need access to additional resources to further the education they receive at the local, underserved, Bureau of Indian Education run schools. These extra resources are only made possible by kind donors like you who believe and invest in the futures of River, Tia and their classmates through supporting the Native American Advancement Foundation’s (NAAF) numerous academic programs, which are designed to make sure our students not only stay in school, but stay interested in a lifetime of learning and personal accomplishment. As a direct result of your support, the critically high dropout rate on the Tohono O’odham Nation has begun to turn in a positive direction, but there is still a long road ahead.

River attended his junior year of high school at our virtual learning center. He enrolled back at the local high school because he needed one-on-one help with his schoolwork. River had to attend summer school in order to catch up with the rest of his class, and with the help of our after school staff and tutor, River received his high school diploma this semester. In October, River was accepted to the Art Institute in Santa Fe New Mexico for the spring semester.

Tia is a 5th grader at San Simon Elementary School, and attends our after school program. At the beginning of the school year, Tia was struggling with her math. Now Tia has one-on-one study sessions with our after school math tutor, and has significantly improved in this subject. The after school program has math worksheets that the students work on and use to study, and Tia has been receiving 100% on her worksheets. This past quarter Tia received a math award at the awards assembly at her school.

Each after-school session devotes time to helping the kids to be successful in school, with lessons in math, reading, writing, composition, and STEM. This year, thanks to your donations, NAAF was able to hire an additional tutor to aid the kids with their homework in a variety of different subjects, and sources from the local school report that the kids who are involved in the program have shown great improvement.   

From all of us here at NAAF, we can never thank you enough for helping these youth lift themselves up. The future holds everything for them, and they are ready to earn it through hard work, belief in themselves, and some extra-special help from donors like you.

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