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National Relief Charities' Fundraiser:

School Supplies on the Reservations

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owner profile imageNational Relief Charities via Crowdrise
November 17, 2011

Each year we distribute more than 35,000 school supply kits to children in reservation communities.  See more

BENEFITING: National Relief Charities

EVENT DATE: Nov 11, 2011


Schools tell us about families that do not register their children on time for school because they don’t have the supplies needed to begin the year. They also share how parents pull their children out of one school and register them in another that is offering supplies. Some students leave school out of embarrassment when they don’t have replacement supplies. Many children act out when teased about not having supplies for the year. As a result, teachers often purchase supplies out of their own household budgets to help out as much as they can. School administrators strive to remain aware of individual family needs in order to preempt unnecessary transfers and drop outs. These efforts are not always successful. 

 Many families living in rural reservation communities face the double whammy of poverty and isolation. The issue is not just lack of funds – it is access. So many communities are located far from retail outlets. With transportation challenges, many families can’t provide the school supplies their children need.
In an effort to help each child start the school year on equal footing, NRC partners with reservation schools. Each spring we identify schools and help them plan and conduct back-to-school events to encourage timely school registration and to increase family involvement in their children’s educational experience.
We provide the school supplies. We drive the long distances to ensure the supplies get to the schools.

We offer the schools technical support for their event. The school conducts the distribution event.
• Schools need supplies to encourage families to send their children to school.
• Children will attend school and have a positive experience if they have the learning tools they need. 
• Children who come to school prepared with the necessary school supplies definitely learn better.
This project will provide school supplies to more than 35,000 American Indian children.  It will be offered on the 75 priority reservations NRC serves in 11 states in the Plains and Southwest US.  These states include AZ, NM, UT, NV, CA, SD, ND, WY, MT, ID and NE.  These are the most isolated and poorest reservations in the country.  There is a great deal of poverty in the reservation communities we serve. 
• The National Institute of Justice in 2008 reported that American Indians remain the poorest minority in the United States.  Those living in reservation communities are commonly characterized by severe unemployment – 80 - 90%.
• The rate of poverty for American Indian children under age 5 is more than twice the national poverty rate.
This level of poverty brings with it a host of social issues.
• The high school graduation rate for American Indian students is 30 – 52%, depending on the reservation compared to 74% for the US as a whole.
• American Indians have the highest rate of food insecurity of any ethnic group in the US.
• American Indian children suffer neglect and abuse at a rate three times the national average
• The suicide rates for American Indian youth are up to 3 times higher than that of other ethnicities
• 85 percent of the homes on the Navajo lack utilities. About 40% of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation have no electricity.
It is important to understand the tremendous isolation of rural communities within reservation boundaries. Access to critical services and goods is very limited for families living in poverty on remote American Indian reservations. Supermarkets and retail stores can be hours away and in many cases families are forced to meet their basic needs at smaller more expensive convenience stores or gas stations. These types of stores generally do not carry school supplies so families have no choice but to leave the reservation to purchase supplies.  The majority of the families we serve lack transportation, which makes an off reservation trip for supplies especially difficult.  When families are struggling to feed and clothe their children, purchasing school supplies is often not viewed as a priority.

Goals for this program are to:

• Improve learning readiness
• Increase school attendance for children living on poor and isolated Indian reservations
• Increase self-esteem of students as they are prepared to begin school with needed supplies
• Decrease disruptive behavior related to negative feelings about not being prepared for school
• Increase parental involvement in their child’s education
• Increase the likelihood that children and their families view school as a resource
• Decrease the number of teachers who provide school supplies from their personal finances

Major components of the school distribution event include:
• Identifying schools in isolated reservation communities that are interested in conducting back-to-school events to encourage timely registration and foster deeper family involvement
• Assisting schools in conducting an event on campus
• Delivering the supplies directly to the schools


Benefits of the program include:
• Children will begin the school year with the supplies they need
• Children will be encouraged to see that their school, parents and other organizations support and are invested in their education
• Children will feel enfranchised and on a level playing field to begin the school year
• An increase of enrollment in reservations schools
• Improved school attendance
• The financial burden on struggling families is eased


NRC has increased its school supply delivery each year. In 2011, NRC delivered a combined total of 40,000 school supply kits to children in the Northern Plains and in the Southwest.


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