College Fund Presents Findings: Community Early Childhood Learning Benefits Native Students

November 17, 2015

Involving families and community members in the development of culturally relevant education programs for their early-childhood aged children improves their skills and academic readiness, according to a five-year program conducted by the American Indian College Fund (the College Fund). The findings have relevance for children in underserved communities nationwide.

The program findings will be presented by a panel comprised of representatives from tribal colleges and the American Indian College Fund at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida. The session, titled “The Tribal and Indigenous Early Childhood Network: Making Cultural Connections Nationwide,” is scheduled for November 18 in the Orange County Convention Center, Room W107, from 8:15-11:15 a.m.
The session will open with a premiere of a 30-minute documentary about the work done in the communities over the five-year period. A discussion will follow concerning how to engage in community-based inquiry and programming geared for educational change in American Indian communities. The session share program curriculum and resources. Federal officers and other early childhood educators will also have the opportunity to share resources.

Panelists include project directors and representatives from the tribal colleges who participated in the College Fund’s program, called, the Wakanyeaja Early Childhood Initiative (Wakanyeja ECE Initiative), and Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, Senior Program Officer of the Wakanyeja ECE Initiative at the American Indian College Fund; Birgit Meany, Academic Dean, Ilisagvik College; Cyndi Pyatskowit, Early Childhood Education Faculty and Project Director and Kelli Chelberg, Early Childhood Education Faculty, both of College of Menominee Nation; Danielle Lansing, Faculty and Project Director, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute; and Shelley Macy and Nahrin Aziz Parsons, Faculty and co-Project Directors, both of Northwest Indian College.

The program is the featured program of the Tribal and Indigenous Early Childhood Network of the NAEYC session. The Wakanyeja ECE Initiative, begun in 2011, features four tribal colleges serving American Indian and Alaska Native communities. They were selected through a competitive process and received up to $935,000 over four years to develop and strengthen their early childhood education programs.