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Sep 21, 2016

The Special Summer

Our Academic Summer Adventure promotes education, builds youth self-esteem, sparks curiosity, and shapes strong, healthy, contributing members of society. This summer our students improved their reading, writing, math, and science skills in a fun and friendly environment. These dedicated youth were also treated to fun and educational field trips to locations in and out of their community.

Thanks to an in-kind donation from Laces of Grace, we distributed 69 pairs of brand new shoes to our students and other children in the community! We also distributed 40 new backpacks and luggage tags to students for the school year among other much-needed school supplies.

NAAF partnered with the USDA and Arizona Department of Education through the Summer Food Service Program to provide healthy and nutritious lunches and snacks to children in Gu Vo District and the Tohono O'odham Nation's capital, Sells District. This was a welcome addition to our program and gave us another opportunity to focus on health and wellness education on the Nation. A total of 3,273 meals and snacks were served over 6 weeks! It was a true delight seeing the youth respond positively to these healthy meals. At the Al Jek Recreation Center in Gu Vo District, we were honored to have guests from the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service team. Among them were Jesus Mendoza Jr., Western Regional Administrator; Sarah Stever, Program Specialist; Michael Ladd, Tribal Liaison; and Suzanne Callor, a Nutrition Program Specialist with the Arizona Department of Education. Our guests were treated to a traditional Tohono O'odham song, sung by three students about the four directions, as well as a warm welcome from Gu Vo Chairman Manuel. This visit meant so much to us as the USDA team traveled all the way from San Francisco to see our vibrant community in action.

This summer our students had an inside look at the roles associated with their Tribal Council at the Legislative Council Chambers in Sells District. They had the opportunity to meet with Legislative Council Chairman Timothy Joaquin and learn about the importance of the Council's work. To commemorate the experience, the students' picture was printed in the local newspaper, The Runner! On the way back to Gu Vo, the students were treated to a tour of the KOHN FM radio station in Ouijota. Many children later expressed how fun and educational the trip was for them. On another trip, our students were thrilled and inspired by the Pima Air and Space Museum, where they learned about the history of aircraft used during WWI and WWII. A few of the older youth were fortunate enough to speak with veterans at the museum. The veterans expressed enjoyment over speaking with the youth about their experiences as many of these servicemen were around the same age when they enlisted. In addition to these exciting adventures, the students loved swimming at the public pools in Ajo and Sells, AZ! What a fantastic summer! :)

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Sep 1, 2016

New School Year Shows New Promise

We are excited to share that our 2016 / 2017 Gu Vo Academic After-School Program began Monday, August 29. We have been averaging 30 students per day and expect that number to hit 40 within a few weeks.

Our number one objective is keeping our students enrolled in school. Since the program began in 2011, we have had very few participants drop out from either our program or school (this is a big deal where a 51% dropout rate is the norm). The second objective we set out to achieve is to bring each student's reading, writing, math, and science skills to that of his or her grade level. Most of these students are years behind, but our academic after-school program catches everyone up to their grade level or better. Finally, we aim to teach the youth about healthy living and how improving their GPAs and graduating high school will lead them to break the cycle of poverty on the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Community members, retired teachers, and professional tutors develop and manage the program, which includes activities designed to keep students scholastically engaged as well as physically fit. Students begin each session with study hour where instructors provide tutoring in reading, writing, math, science, and the study of computer programming and robotics. STEM activities take place every-other session. Through a partnership with Cenpatico’s Prevention Services, we teach the students Too Good for Drugs and Violence lessons to increase the perception of harm of underage drinking and drug use. Through a grant from Arizona FoodCorps, we bring lessons about healthy eating, science, and math into our program from our beautiful FoodCorps garden outside.

Educational field trips to locations such as the University of Arizona and Biosphere 2 play an important role in the program. On a recent field trip to the Arizona Science Center, as we reached the freeways of Phoenix and downtown came into view, two overheard comments from our students were, “Are these all the cars in the whole world?” and “How are those tall buildings being held up by just windows?” Statements like these truly put things into perspective. Most of these youth have never left the reservation.

Arts and crafts classes are included in the curriculum - painting, sewing, ceramics, and beading – skills that are incorporated into the making of traditional Tohono O’odham clothing, medicine pouches, jewelry, pottery, and holiday handicrafts. Also offered is instruction in dance, pottery, cooking, language, and gardening. The idea is to teach students subjects such as math, reading, writing, and science, but to also focus on the history and traditions of the Tohono O’odham Tribe to instill confidence and a strong sense of belonging.

Thank you from all of us at NAAF for considering joining us on this incredible journey, but more importantly, thank you from our students. Even though they may not understand the importance of donations, grants, or funding, they are thanking you through their hard work, their dedication to their studies, and through graduating high school and pursuing a college education. This Tribe is hurting in so many ways, but we see amazing, positive change daily, and you can be a huge part of that change, so thank you again, so much. We truly cannot thank you enough.

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Jun 24, 2016

Academic Summer Adventure Going Great!

As we enter the fourth week of our 2016 Academic Summer Adventure, we could not be happier with the way things are going. We have close to 40 youth attending each day who are doing amazing work with their studies, eating a nutritious lunch and snack each day, and taking educational field trips across the state of Arizona. 

Fewer than half of the Tohono O’odham community’s adults have completed high school (the lowest rate of all U.S. Native American tribes). A dropout rate in excess of 51% continues to be the norm. Lack of education has an enormous impact on the future, since the population is statistically young: 52.2% of the population is under 25- years-old (compared with 35.3% of the United States).

The goal of the program is to continue academic lessons through the summer, build our youths’ self-esteem, spark curiosity, and shape strong, healthy, contributing members of society. June 6, 2016, marked the start of the sixth year of the program, which benefits 40 students per day for six weeks. The program focuses 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. We follow these and all of the Arizona Quality Standards for Out-of-School Time Programs. Also this summer for the first time we are teaching the youth how to say no to underage drinking and substance abuse through Too Good for Drug Lessons.

As with our academic after-school program, all of the youth involved in this program have already increased their reading, writing, and math skills and are almost caught up to their grade level if not already there!

Thank you from all of us at NAAF for continuing on this incredible journey with us, and thank you from the students. Even though they may not be concerned with the importance of donations or grants or funding, they are thanking you through their hard work, their dedication to their studies, through graduating high school and going on to college and even coming back to help this Tribe that is in bad shape. This Tribe is hurting, but we see amazing, positive change daily, and you are a huge part of that change, so thank you again, so much. We truly cannot thank you enough.

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