When the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (LCO) received the Tribal Youth Program (TYP) grant in 2009, this Northern Wisconsin tribe was dealing with a disproportionate amount of its youth disengaging from school and becoming truant. “When I wrote this grant, there were 131 Native students at Hayward Public High School, of which 67 (51%) were truant,” says Karen Rougeau, Executive Director of the LCO Boys and Girls Club and TYP grant coordinator, “There were a lot of people doing the best they knew how, but, unfortunately, we were not reducing truancy.”
The TYP grant provided an opportunity for key partners in the Lac Courte Oreilles and Hayward communities to pull together in a systematic way, to create a community-driven Comprehensive Truancy Prevention Project (CTPP). The CTPP would eventually include a curriculum for students now known as Mastering The Journey, based on Social Responsibility Training (SRT®), developed by Character Development Systems LLC. SRT® utilizes a coach-driven model that is solution-based and empowers the students to make better choices, re-engage with school, and value their education. It also promotes agency collaboration across community services. For LCO, community service partners include the LCO Tribal School, the Hayward Public High school, the Tribal and Sawyer County Juvenile Courts, Indian Child Welfare, Sawyer County Human Services, and Sawyer County Police.
An at-risk student meets with a designated truancy team, usually consisting of Truancy Specialist Kim Lambert, the Assistant Principal and the truancy officer. At that time, the Mastering The Journey curriculum may be offered. Additionally, students who have been cited for truancy may get referred to the program in court proceedings. Judges in both the Tribal Court and Circuit Court jurisdictions are staying these citation fines, upon completion of the curriculum, based on a status review. This commitment to address truancy from the juvenile courts shows a more restorative approach.
In the LCO community, the curriculum is currently being offered as both a preventative measure in 6th grade, and as an intervention measure for high school students. At Hayward Public High School, Mastering The Journey is provided as an intervention measure. As Kim Lambert explains, “The beauty of the Mastering the Journey curriculum is that it is culturally sensitive.”
Having gone through their planning year, the LCO Tribal Youth Program is now well into its first year of implementation. When asked about some of the challenges they faced, both Kim and Karen mentioned the logistics of delivering the curriculum during the school day. The Superintendent of Hayward Community Schools understands the value of this curriculum and would like the Board of Education to revisit approving it as an accredited class.
Another challenge was gaining the trust from the schools to implement the curriculum. “They needed to trust that we would do the work, follow through, track the results and not create more work for them,” said Kim.
Kim and Karen’s next steps are to track the students who go through the curriculum and gather data on those habitually truant youth. They also acknowledge the importance of keeping both communities informed of the progress. Their communication plan includes a column in two local newspapers, a regular spot on two local radio stations, and frequent updates to Tribal Council and CTPP.
Karen and Kim are looking forward to expanding the positive results they are already seeing in students currently enrolled in Mastering The Journey, and to further strong working relationships with all community partners. Both agree that this effort would not have been possible without the support of the Tribal Youth Program and its important initiatives.
For more about Social Responsibility Training (SRT®) visit http://www.characterdevelopmentsystems.com.
To read Kim Lambert’s, Mastering The Journey column in the LCO Times, visit http://lcotimes.com/pages/Articles/cat/2/op/extended/article/626/cat/2.