Prior Lake, MN – American Indians are the most underrepresented minority group in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Tribal communities need leaders and a workforce well versed in STEM disciplines, all grounded in self, family, culture and community, and all with the ability to think globally.
To help meet this challenge to provide substantive numbers of high school graduates that are fully prepared to enter the demands of a rigorous STEM curriculum, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has awarded a grant for $50,000 to the American Institute for Innovation. Shuttle Astronaut John B. Herrington, the first enrolled member of a Native American tribe (Choctaw Nation) to fly in space, serves as Chairman of the Board for the AIII.
“This program is another opportunity to help our Indian youth learn important skills and further their education in these disciplines so that they can later return to help their own communities,” said SMSC Chairman Stanley R. Crooks. “It was also nice to see that three of our Community members: Charlie Vig, Rebecca Crooks, and Lori Watso were instrumental in moving this project forward. All three of them took an interest in this program and what it could mean for Minnesota’s Indian Youth and shepherded it through our process to see that it would happen.”
The American Indian Institute for Innovation engages American Indian students and their families from beginning high school through college in a year round program, promoting educational success using a nurturing educational community. With a rigorous Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics based and culturally infused curriculum that prepares students to further their education, these students will later enter the workforce with a sense of service and responsibility to their tribal communities.
Afterschool tutoring and mentorship during the school year and early college visits are also part of the program which has been operational in South Dakota schools for six years. Nearly 5,000 students have already participated in AIII programs in South Dakota, including their successful Gear Up program. With the SMSC grant, similar programs will come to Minnesota Dakota communities.
Gear Up is a six-week summer, residential, pre-college enrichment program for reservation-based high school students in South Dakota. The program targets students and their families beginning in the eighth grade and follows them through high school. AIII leadership initiated this program in 1992, and the success rate has been exceptional. Without exception, every alumnus is a high school graduate; 87% percent went on to post-secondary education, and 9% entered the military.
The American Indian Institute for Innovation (AIII) educational model prepares future generations of American Indian Leaders to apply Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) based solutions to tribal challenges.
“The goal is to get more kids into natural resource and STEM careers with a sense of service and community. The grant from the SMSC will provide seed money to develop partnerships to empower American Indian students and families to prepare for and access opportunities for higher education. The goal is to improve the quality of life by graduating American Indian students who have a sense of service and responsibility to their tribal communities,” said Stacy Phelps, Chief Executive Officer and founder of AIII. Stacy is an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate.
The grant will provide resources to establish tribally centered partnerships in Minnesota focused on youth conversation and on increasing the preparation and graduation of American Indian students from institutions of higher education that have a sense of service and responsibility to tribal communities.
The SMSC utilizes its financial resources from gaming and non-gaming enterprises to pay for the internal infrastructure of the Tribe, including but not limited to roads, water and sewer systems, emergency services, and essential services to its Tribal members in education, health, and welfare. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has a charitable giving program which comes from a cultural and social tradition to assist those in need. Over the past 15 years, the SMSC has donated more than $215.7 million to charitable organizations and Indian Tribes and Native American organizations. The SMSC has also made more than $396 million in loans to other tribes for economic development projects.
For more information about American Indian Institute for Innovation, go to www.theaiii.com.
About the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, a federally recognized Indian Tribe in Minnesota, is the owner and operator of Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, Little Six Casino, Mazopiya, Playworks, Dakotah! Sport and Fitness, The Meadows at Mystic Lake, and other enterprises on a reservation south of the Twin Cities.
Since 1996 the SMSC paid more than $7.5 million for shared local road construction projects and an additional $5 million for road projects on the reservation. The SMSC has also paid $12.7 million to local governments for services and another $5 million for other projects.