Success Academy a model for Native
By Jomay Steen
Condensed by Native
A unique curriculum, 300 professional
staff, and collaboration with a state
university is improving retention
rates at one of the oldest Native
American boarding schools in South
Success Academy, an early and intensive
college preparation program, is meeting
success at the Flandreau
Indian School as well as South Dakota
State University at Brookings.
The program was
created to keep Flandreau freshmen in
school and improve academic achievement.
Flandreau serves students from 30
different states and 60
different tribes. 250 of those students
are enrolled in the Academy each year.
With assistance from 300 SDSU faculty,
has become SDSU's premier diversity program
The academy follows each class
through grades 9-12 and creates a welcoming and comfortable
setting at both Flandreau campus
"It has helped to retain kids in our
high school," said counselor Zonya
Before Success Academy, about five
graduates per year completed grades
9-12. Four years later, 40
graduating seniors had attended FIS for
all four years of high school.
Success Academy Coordinator Mary Jo
Benton Lee said students typically made choices too late
about attending a post-secondary school.
"We send the message to freshmen that
the time to plan is now. We plant those
ideas early and we keep those students
on the academic path," she said.
Of the 28 FIS Success Academy graduates,
six have transferred to other colleges
and five are now at SDSU,. That 39% retention rate
nearly equals that of Native colleges
"Before that, we had about one student
per year from Flandreau. It's what we
want to work on now," Lee said.
For grade 9, Success Academy features hands-on workshops in seven
academic colleges on the SDSU campus.
Students learn about college subjects
and careers and which ones tribal
leaders identify as the most
critically needed in their communities.
In 10th grade, students identify
interest areas, then attend four
focus days that include the military,
health, physical education and
recreation, the arts and American Indian
Studies. Dinners hosted by the SDSU
Native American Club introduce SA
students to college students who become
positive role models and mentors.
11th grade, students
receive a four-session program called "Preparing for College,
Native Style!" Retired SDSU faculty
members serve as academic parents,
helping mentor the high school students
as they prepare to enroll in college.
Academic parents lunch with the
students, listen to their hopes and
fears, and provide mentoring.
They even write to them over the summer.
"This is where the rubber meets the
road," Lee said.
In Grade 12, SDSU offers 10
FIS seniors a scholarship. During the
year, the seniors will earn six
college credits in basic writing and
math courses. They will also
complete college applications, apply for
financial aid, take the ACT test, visit
departments in which they will major and
attend pre-orientation day in April
designed especially for Native students.
"Once they have completed Success
Academy, the students feel pretty
comfortable at SDSU," Lee said.
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