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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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Jun 9, 2016

What an Amazing Year for Our Youth!

Wow. What an incredible year for the Native American Advancement Foundation’s Gu Vo Academic After-School program! We averaged over 30 youth per session, improved our students' math, reading, writing, science (and other STEM activities) skills and didn’t have one student drop out of our program or school. This is fantastic, as the Tohono O’odham Nation battles a dropout rate of over 51%.

This amazing school year would never have been possible without your support. We hope you will consider continuing on this journey with us. This work is as beautiful as it is important, and we see real, positive change daily. 

Each after-school session is made up of lessons in math, reading, writing, composition, STEM lessons, tribal culture and tradition, art-and-crafts, and play time. Our students cannot wait to get to the program, and they always hate to leave. 

This year we served over 3,600 healthy snacks and 3,600 healthy dinners prepared using the Mayo Clinic Cookbook for kids. The kids loved the food and learning about healthy living.

Moving forward, it is our hope to partner with other districts on the Tohono O’odham Nation to implement their own after-school programs based on our model, which combines physical and psychological safety, supportive relationships, appropriate structure, opportunities to belong, positive social norms, support for efficacy and mattering, opportunities for skill building, and integration of family, school, and community efforts.

Again, the success of our programs is not possible without the selfless, generous donations from people like you. Thank you SO much!

 
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