The Choctaw Nation has always looked for the greater good and I see it more every year as the summer programs for youth continue to expand. Investing in our youth is investing in our future.
The Partnership for Summer School Education started in Bryan County, expanded to schools in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) service area, and will be expanding even more. Developed for kindergarten through third-graders, POSSE provides hands-on instruction in math and reading for the students. Statistics are showing that many of the students reach the desired levels after the second year of attending the summer school and not needing the third. POSSE is making a difference.
According to research, students who are not reading at grade level by the end of the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. It’s a crucial point and I’m thankful for the POSSE program and the dedicated staff who work closely with the students, parents and schools to boost the children’s academic success. POSSE expanded this year to 23 sites offering summer learning opportunities for students from 51 schools. In 2017, the program will continue its expansion to include students from all 85 school districts in the Choctaw Nation.
The Choctaw Nation Youth Work Program is geared to help Native youth develop skills, resumes, and begin their careers. The youth are provided jobs during the summer, positions that help prepare them for the workforce. There were 926 eligible applications received by the deadline and 862 young men and women participated in the program this year. It’s encouraging to see how several are so successful they are retained to work part-time in their positions while they go to college.
The Choctaw Nation Youth Work Program not only builds their self-esteem but also builds their confidence that they can compete and be a productive citizen in the workforce. I’ve watched several of the youth grow up and now they are finding employment not only for the Choctaw Nation but also for other employers. They are improving their communication skills, work ethics, and learning what is expected in a good employee.
The Choctaw Nation summer camps registered 3,138 total attendees this year. They started in early June with stickball camp. The stickball camp was followed by golf, softball, baseball, football, basketball and culture camps. They are excellent opportunities for the kids to develop sports skills, learn to work as a team, and learn more about the Choctaw culture. Again, the kids are growing up to step into leadership roles on the field and as adults.
A new school year will be starting soon, and there are programs available to students throughout the United States such as the Success Through Academic Recognition (STAR) program that provides incentives for academic achievements. STAR awards are presented every year to Choctaw students in 2nd through 12th grade who have straight A’s, made A’s and B’s, or have perfect attendance.
POSSE, STAR, and summer camps are just a few of the programs we have that contribute to student successes and the desire to continue their education. More students are applying for scholarships and attempting college credits while still in high school.
The youth programs epitomize what it is to be Choctaw—to learn how to prepare for life and to put faith, family and culture first.