Founding mothers of ITCN Head Start program honored at Reno summit
RENO, Nev. — For many, preschool and early childhood development isn’t something questioned for even a moment; many fortunate parents know exactly where to go for resources to help advance their children’s learning and social development, early-on.
For one group of strong American Indian mothers, however, no such childcare existed for their growing babies just over 50 years ago in Nevada.
There was no platform catering specifically to Native childhood development with an emphasis on both cultural tradition and standard growth benchmarks.
So, those mothers created their own program.
On March 23, during the 11th Annual American Indian/Alaska Native Education Summit held at the University of Nevada, Reno, the women who facilitated the now-thriving Head Start program through the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada (ITCN) were recognized for their progressive action, which has made a lasting effect on the lives and success of the region’s Native children.
“I just think it’s admirable for young women, young mothers, to see the needs of all Native children, and taking the responsibility to start the federal program here in Nevada…” said Sherry Rupert, executive director of the State of Nevada Indian Commission.
Rupert presented each of the women with a plaque during the awards ceremony and showcased a slideshow of images from over 50 years of service creating an educational foundation for Native children.
Over the decades, children of the program have grown up to become great leaders, with several now working as doctors, nurses and educators.
Rupert added that one of the main priorities of ITCN’s Head Start program is to teach children through stories, keeping tradition alive and passing storytelling practices onto the next generations.
The mission of the American Indian/Alaska Native Education Summit is, “building an equitable and sustainable education system for native students,” and over the course of two days (March 22-23), students attended workshops and seminars at UNR that were designed to teach them about the resources available to them and help prepare them for college.
“This is our 11th year and the theme is building an equitable and sustainable education system which is really the goal,” said Alex Coronel, a management analyst with the Nevada Department of Education who helped facilitate the summit. “This is the second year for the youth summit and youth summit attendance has free attendance to make things even more accessible.
“We are offering professional development for anyone who wants it.”
The two-day summit included adult sessions on how to find balance between work, education and personal life, as well as talks on how to find and win scholarships, best practices for educating American Indian students, and much more.
Sessions geared toward youth attendees included empowering youth through language and song, college knowledge sessions, and a college fair with representative booths set up to answer questions and help discussing applying for financial aid.
Visit bit.ly/1Vlbk4q to learn more about the summit.
AB264 was just one of eight Tribal-related bills that have either been signed into law this session, or were adopted by the Legislature and await Sisolak’s approval, highlighting one of the most successful legislative sessions in the history of Nevada in terms of Native American affairs.