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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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UNL Student Group Helps Native Students Write Grants
by KEVIN ABOUREZK / Lincoln Journal Star

One girl wanted to buy marching band equipment: brass instruments, woodwinds, drums, cheerleading uniforms and batons.

Another wanted to buy Native drums and flutes.

Yet another wanted symphony instruments and a grand piano.

The paths they chose may have been different, but all three girls in Nicky Ouelette's seventh-period senior English class were headed in the same direction: to provide opportunities to their classmates that are offered in so many off-reservation schools.

"They see how they are compared to kids in more affluent communities," said Ouelette, an English teacher at Little Wound High School on South Dakota's impoverished Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. "Each one of my students saw a path to get to where those students were."

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln student group is trying to help Ouelette's students buy band instruments and improve their school. This past spring semester, members of the UNL Students in Free Enterprise traveled to Little Wound three times to teach 40 high school students there how to write grant applications for funds to pay for school-improvement projects.

They eventually developed three grant applications: one for band equipment for Little Wound, a second for weight room equipment and a third that would pay for two student jobs at a local community center that would be focused on planning youth activities in Kyle, S.D.

The UNL student group also traveled to the reservation twice more to distribute and help install 20 gardens for tribal members.

Now the Students in Free Enterprise group is seeking additional grant funds to help them return to the reservation to continue their community-building efforts. They have applied for a grant from True Hero Inc., a nonprofit that awards grants to school and community youth groups that sponsor service trips and volunteer activities for students.

True Hero grants are based on how many online votes each project gets on its website, As of Tuesday afternoon, the UNL student group's "Pine Ridge Project" had the most votes with 1,084, or 65 more votes than the next highest-ranked project. Voting ends Thursday.

Ben Tiggelaar, president of Students in Free Enterprise, said the group would use any grants from True Hero to install additional gardens as well as to support its efforts at Little Wound.

"The money we would get could be used really effectively," he said.

Tiggelaar said the Little Wound School doesn't have useable exercise equipment or band equipment, and the school has committed to paying for a band teacher should the student receive a grant for the band equipment.

The garden kits the team provides include wood planks for the base, topsoil, chicken wire and seeds for vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots and green beans. A reservation nonprofit group, Re-Member, which is helping the UNL group find families to give the gardens to, now has a waiting list for the gardens, Tiggelaar said.

"It's kind of spread like wildfire," he said.

Ouelette said the grant-writing project helped get her students engaged in writing and motivated them to work to improve their community. She hopes to continue teaching the grant-writing curriculum next fall.

"If you can find a project or a unit that really grabs the kids' attention, that's something I want to stick with," she said.

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