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News from the Great Plains

SuAnne Big Crow center receives academic grant

PINE RIDGE, S.D. - The largest Boys and Girls Club in Indian country will now add an academic element to its already large list of programs.

The SuAnne Big Crow Boys and Girls Club recently received a $500,000 South Dakota New Visions, 21st Century Community Learning Program grant.

The grant is a five-year initiative that will allow the club to support higher academic achievement among elementary students.

Two teachers will be hired to work with students three days a week after school. An interactive online program that has found success in other school districts will be used. Education Coordinator Kristiaan Rawlings said the program focuses on math and reading, and has dramatically raised test scores in other parts of the country.

''We wrote the grant to accommodate 250 students and we have no idea how close we will come to that,'' he said.

Third- through fifth-graders from three schools within the vicinity of the Boys and Girls Club will be targeted for participation. Rawlings said the staff will be going into the schools to recruit the students.

At this time there is no coordinated effort between the state Department of Education and this program; however, Rawlings said they would accept any cooperative effort.

Students who take part in the learning program will have the opportunity to also take part in the many programs available to any youth on the reservation, including use of the full-sized Olympic swimming pool.

The SuAnne Big Crow Boys and Girls Club serves some 900 youths, and at any given day between 50 and 75 students will take advantage of the facility, which also includes an upscale Happy Town Diner.

Montana tribes sort out economic future with state

HELENA, Mont. - The result of 2003 legislation that was introduced by Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, Chippewa Cree from the Rocky Boys' Reservation, requires the state and tribes meet to review a mandatory annual report. The law requires that the tribes have a say in state policies that could affect the seven tribal nations in the state.

Economic development is, for the most part, stagnant on many of the reservations with unemployment in the 80 percent range during the winter months.

In 2005 the state Legislature allocated $1 million to be used over a two-year period for economic development in Indian country.

This year, the Chippewa Cree will receive a $55,000 grant to assess the possibility of an ethanol plant; $55,000 will be used by the Fort Belknap tribes for a meat-packing plant; and the Crow Nation or the Apsaalooke Nation will receive another $55,000 for start-up loans for small businesses.

The remainder of the $500,000 annual funding will be awarded throughout 2007.

New housing built at United Tribes Technical College

BISMARCK, N.D. - A new apartment complex on the United Tribes Technical College campus will provide housing for 12 students and their families. The first phase of the new 26,400-square-foot apartment complex is ready for occupancy, and students attending in the 2007 spring semester will be able to move in to the apartments.

Housing for families on the campus has been at a premium for many years. Many students are housed off campus in hotels and apartments in Bismarck and Mandan.

Construction for the new two-bedroom apartments began seven months ago with all the carpentry work and building construction accomplished by students in the college's Construction Technology Program.

''I'm really proud of all of them. We've never had such an enthusiastic group of workers,'' said Michael Matheny, Construction Technology Program director.

Construction on the $2.7 million project began in early June 2006; the second phase of the project, a 24-unit complex, will be completed in February.

Funding for the project came from a $2 million housing tax credit awarded through the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency and other sources, including grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a private- sector donation and funds from the college.

''This project has worked out really well. These first units will be about four months ahead of schedule,'' Matheny said.

After the apartment complex is completed, the construction program will turn its attention to other building projects on the UTTC campus.