expectations and providing support, Red Lake hopes to increase graduation
is king at Red Lake with the Ogichidaag (Warriors) going to
state most years. Here the Ogichidaag celebrate at the 2017
Minnesota State Basketball Tourney in St. Paul. (photo courtesy
The Red Lake Nation Tribal Council has set its Native American
youth a bold goal: 100 percent graduation rate for Red Lake students.
The council wants all students to earn a high school diploma, whether
they go to school on the reservation or in other school districts.
"We want our kids to succeed and this resolution demonstrates
our commitment," said Annette Johnson, Red Lake Nation tribal treasurer,
who earned a B.S. in accounting from Bemidji State University in
1998 and a masters in tribal administration from the University
of Minnesota-Duluth in 2013. "Education is critical and important
for our youth," she added.
Tribal Chairman Darrell Seki Sr., said, "We believe no young
person should leave school without a diploma. This is a courageous
initiative and I believe we are the first community in the country
to make a commitment to a 100 percent high school graduation rate."
He graduated from Red Lake High School with honors, earned an associate's
degree from Rasmussen College and studied at the University of Minnesota.
Last year the graduation rate at Red Lake Nation High School
was 27 percent. This year, the school is on track to graduate 32
percent, "so we're going in the right direction," said Principal
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the
high school graduation rate for public high school students was
83 percent in 2014-2015, ranging from a low of 69 percent in New
Mexico to a high of 91 percent in Iowa. The state of Minnesota,
where the Red Lake Nation is located, had a graduation rate of 80
percent for that year.
The resolution was presented to the tribal council by educator
and author John Eggers, who served as principal of the high school
for seven years. "All kids are capable of graduating," he said,
a conviction shared by Glenda Martin, tribal council member representing
the Ponemah District. "We have a lot of smart students here who
need encouragement, focus and direction to say OK, I can do
it.' We want them to get through high school and college too," she
show off their latest creations skirt creations. Middle school
teacher Tami Liberty is at the left. (photo courtesy Michael
Raising expectations and providing support for students are
not just the responsibility of the schools and parents, said Seki.
"The community is creating a mind set and great things can happen.
Kids will rise to our expectations," he said.
Not everyone will meet the same requirements for graduation.
Minnesota, like most other states, sets minimum graduation standards.
Currently students must complete 21.5 credits distributed among
language arts, math, science, social studies, arts and electives.
School districts may impose additional requirements.
is very much a part of curriculum at Red Lake High School.
Here a young student performs at the State of the Band Message.
(photo courtesy Michael Meuers)
For special needs students, however, the course requirements
may be met by classes specifically geared to their abilities and
specified in their IEPs (Individualized Education Programs). So
language arts credits, for example, may be earned by taking basic
reading skills courses rather than English, literature or composition
classes. In addition, federal law requires that special needs students
be educated until they are 21, so they have an extra two to three
years to complete their high school graduation requirements.
Olson thinks the tribal council's resolution will have "a really
positive affect" on students, but other efforts to increase graduation
rates have already been implemented. The school loses a lot of kids
between 9th and 10th grade, so the school is focusing on 9th graders
to give them more support. "We've created a sheltered system where
kids have the first hour and last hour of the day with the same
core teachers, who are also their advisors. We've also hired a school
counselor for freshmen and sophomores," she explained. Red Lake
Nation High School serves 284 students, with another dozen or so
served by an Alternative Learning Center.
(Drum), is the heartbeat of the people, and an important part
of the curriculum at Red Lake. (photo courtesy Michael Meuers)
"We're trying to create responsive environment with rigor and
high expectations. We want to be sensitive to specific issues and
we are a trauma-informed school, equipped to deal with historical
trauma, abuse, violence, drugs and alcohol," Olson said.
The school serves a tribe of about 12,000 people, about half
of whom live on the reservation. Olson said they are also aware
of the people they missed along the way. "We have a new beginnings
program where we encourage people to come back and get their degrees
and retraining for job skills. We do a lot of outreach, including
on Facebook, and we try to identify and deal with the barriers people
face in coming back," she said.
Eggers says the next step is to let people know about the resolution
and to garner support from superintendents from the other school
districts that educate Red Lake Nation youth as well as community
leaders and parents. "If everyone gets on board the graduation rate
will go up," he said. "It becomes a mind set and people just do
meeting of the Red Lake Nation Tribal Council at which the
resolution was passed unanimously to work toward a high school
graduation rate of 100 percent. (photo courtesy Michael Meuers)