Only 48% of Native children are proficient or advanced in math compared to 82% of their non-Native peers.
By 2015, corps members will teach half of the Native students in our state and two thirds of Native students living on South Dakota reservations.
About South Dakota
The communities in our region have a rich and diverse history. Despite a legacy of attacks on Native Americans' land, language, and traditions, their culture remains a vibrant and powerful force in the state of South Dakota. The breathtaking physical landscape complements the beauty, warmth, and inspiration of its native peoples. Yet in the shadow of such beauty, our communities are far from thriving.
The Sicangu (Rosebud) and Oglala (Pine Ridge) Lakota are sovereign nations that are situated within South Dakota's Todd and Shannon Counties—two of the five poorest counties in the United States. Many Lakota families struggle with issues of employment, housing, and healthcare, and the educational landscape is in stark contrast with that of the state's more affluent communities. Fewer than 10% of Native adults hold a bachelor's degree, and among students living on reservations, less than one in three reads on grade level.
Tribal officials and community and spiritual leadership have been working against these challenges along with off-reservation political leaders. Resistance against oppressive practices in our communities has been strong—from Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull to the American Indian Movement to present-day initiatives. Parents, teachers, principals, tribal councils, and the local community all want the best for Lakota children. State political leaders and the Bureau of Indian Education also want the best for Lakota children. But while so many stakeholders share a common purpose, there is still much work to be done to ensure educational success for all students in Todd and Shannon Counties.
Teach For America launched in the region in 2004 with 17 corps members spread across the Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations. Despite racial and cultural differences, our corps members and alumni have worked diligently to change educational outcomes for Lakota students. While tribal leadership and non-Native American organizations have a history of limited collaboration, growing community voices have expressed how much they value their relationships with Teach For America teachers. Shoulder-to-shoulder with the communities we serve, we're striving toward college-readiness, cultural awareness, and identity-rooted pride for all Native students living on reservations in South Dakota.
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During that time, he built strong relationships with members of the tribal communities and developed a deep belief in the potential of the region's students. Jim's next role took him to Milwaukee, where he served as the managing director of program, supporting corps members in 88 classrooms in leading their students to new levels of achievement.
Before leaving South Dakota, Jim made promises to his friends and their children that a system that produces radically different outcomes—both in terms of culture and college-readiness—is possible for Native kids. These promises and relationships compelled him to return to the region in 2011 as executive director. He currently leads nearly 100 corps members, alumni, and program staff who collectively reach more than 2,500 students each year. Jim graduated from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management where he double majored in Management and American Studies. He lives in Todd County on the Rosebud Reservation and is excited to be helping the region's community leaders bring their visions for the future to fruition.