SIPI has worked hard to make sure its Restorative Teachings Initiative is grounded in community needs and parent voices. Parents were empowered through the initiative to ensure that the program is culturally responsive and meets their children’s needs. They have led the way in defining priority areas for learning since the American Indian College Fund’s Restorative Teachings Initiative was awarded to SIPI in 2016.
Each month SIPI’s Project Director, Dr. Danielle Lansing, meets with parents at the Early Learning Center to plan events and activities to support the families in the areas of health, wellness, and economic security.
Recently parents from the Early Learning Center met to brainstorm, plan, and prioritize Restorative Teachings activities for SIPI’s second year. SIPI’s intertribal student population was well represented as parents from various tribes such as Lakota, Jicarilla Apache, Navajo, Hopi, Acoma Pueblo, Taos Pueblo, San Felipe Pueblo, and Zuni Pueblo were represented. Parents include those who are students at SIPI as well as parents from the greater community. Dr. Lansing and Reeve Mora, Parent Committee Chair co-facilitated the meeting. Dr. Lansing presented two lists to the parents that included a summation of parent brainstorming and questionnaire data.
Parents reviewed the lists and were given stickers to identify the top priority areas they would like to see addressed. Parents took turns scanning lists entitled “Health and Wellness” and “Economic Security” and carefully selected where to vote with their stickers. Some parents discussed topics with each other, agreeing on topics they felt were important. It was a collegial atmosphere where parents were able to voice their opinions. The team agreed to leave the lists hanging for parents not in attendance so they, too, could vote on priority areas. While parents met, 14 children also attended the meeting and enjoyed free playtime with an ELC teacher who provided childcare with SIPI’s Restorative Teaching student intern.
Some emerging priority areas in Health and Wellness included eating healthy, cultural foods and safety. In the area of Economic Security included financial stability, planning, budgeting and credit checks that were most identified.
The group then identified next steps. Parents are looking forward to planning the calendar of activities for the remainder of year two of SIPI’s Restorative Teachings initiative. These processes keep SIPI’s Restorative Teachings activities in alignment with parent’s needs. Parents feel valued and empowered in the process and as a result, they keep coming back. Parent voices continue to be the strength and foundation of SIPI’s parent engagement efforts.
By Danielle R Lansing, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) Restorative Teachings Project Director