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TEAM-WORKS Academy Builds Mind, Body and Character

The TEAM-WORKS Academy works with Native American youth to improve their grades, desire to attend school, as well as teaching them healthy eating habits and the benefits of physical activity.
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The TEAM-WORKS Academy works with underserved youth, including Native Americans, on developing skills, confidence and learning about making positive choices.

“My child has made so much progress in the classrooms that their teachers have commented about their academic and attitude improvements,” says one parent on the academy’s website.

That success comes from the program’s emphasis on providing a “culturally supporting learning environment that equips students with the skills and confidence to achieve success in and out of the classroom,” notes

The site reports that student participants typically gain almost a full grade level in math and reading abilities, not to mention increased levels of physical activity and an increase in the ability to use critical reasoning skills.

“As a mentor in the TEAM-WORKS program, I have been able to observe dramatic changes in students’ lives. It has been great to see students who could not read at the beginning of the school year, regain their confidence in their ability to learn, while others who were once afraid of attempting math problems are now excited to demonstrate what they have learned,” says Vong Ly, a TEAM-WORKS mentor/tutor, on the website.

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The academy is a program of the Washington Chapter of HOPE Worldwide and was founded in 2002 by Mack Strong, former Seattle Seahawks fullback, and his wife Zoe Higheagle Strong, a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, and Washington chapter executive for HOPE Worldwide.

The two of them were honored in September with the “Washingtonian of the Year” Award, which according to a press release from Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen’s office, is given to people who have demonstrated leadership, selflessness, generosity and compassion in service to others.

“We know that a lot of the vulnerable children we serve—Native American children, at-risk, inner city—that they’ve been through so much trauma, they’ve had so much adversity in their lives that they need help with motivation to go to school and they need that nurturing and character development to get them inspired to go back to school, to work hard, to deal with the challenges that they face,” Zoe said during an interview at the award reception held September 17. “Rather than just providing an after school program with tutoring and mentorship we really wanted to provide a curriculum that helps them to achieve the best they can.”

Mack made sure to discuss the physical fitness aspects of the program, noting how important it is to teach children how to eat healthy and stay active to combat the high rates of diabetes and obesity that are prevalent in so many communities today.

Watch the full interview below: