William Mendoza, executive director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education, is seen here visiting Mesa Community College in 2013. He recently spoke about the U.S. Department of Education tripling its investment in Native Youth Community Projects.

Native Youth Community Project Grant Program to Get $17.4 Million Boost

Tanya H. Lee

The U.S. Department of Education is tripling its investment in Native Youth Community Projects with an additional $17.4 million for competitive grants.

William Mendoza, executive director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education, says, “This represents the largest increase for Indian education, specifically Title VII, since its inception. These are important grants that tribal leaders called for… to engage in partnerships and to be involved in schools across the country.” (Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was changed to Title VI when the act was reauthorized as the Every Student Succeeds Act in December.)

The NYCP funding opportunity supports preschool through college-level projects that help American Indian and Alaska Native youth prepare for college and careers. The first round of grants totaling $5.3 million was awarded in September.

“Given that this is the second round of Native Youth Community Project grants, we expect our grantees to be taking on more complex projects,” says Mendoza. “The idea is to focus on partnerships between tribes and schools or in-school or out-of-school services that are supporting college and career readiness. Tribes can utilize these funds for early learning, language preservation, or any other evidence-based intervention.”

As examples, Mendoza cited two programs that were funded in September. The Alaska Cook Inlet Tribal Council Inc., in partnership with the Anchorage School District, received $600,000 for a middle-school intervention program, Journey Ahead, which focuses on academic achievement, attendance, and a respectful school climate. And the New Mexico Native American Community Academy (NACA) Foundation was awarded $472,806 to expand its network of high-performing schools dedicated solely to Indigenous education in Northwest New Mexico.

In this round of funding, the department plans to award 19 grants ranging from $500,000 to $1 million by September 30. The application due date is May 31, with a notice of intent due April 29.

The Department of Education has scheduled a pre-application webinar to offer technical assistance to potential applicants for March 9 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Future technical assistance webinars will cover a whole gamut of topics to help applicants perform a needs assessment, develop partnerships with other eligible entities and develop robust projects that address significant barriers for Native American and Alaska Native youth.

“This pre-application effort from the department is something that tribal leaders have called for to help them build capacity for these complex partnerships,” says Mendoza. The department will also offer technical assistance for implementing the projects it selects to receive grants. The schedule of technical assistance opportunities will be posted on the Office of Indian Education website.

Eligible applicants are state educational agencies; local educational agencies, which are school districts and charter schools that are considered LEAs under state law; Indian tribes; Indian organizations; BIE-funded and public schools; Indian institutions, including institutions of higher education; or consortia of any of these entities. “To get the absolute priority for the designation of NYCP, the applicant would have to partner with a tribe or a BIE-funded or public school,” says Mendoza. One of the key elements of the NYCP grant program is partnership, he says. “That was something that tribes [said] was important in improving opportunities for Native students.”

The Native Youth Community Projects grant program is a component of President Obama’s Generation Indigenous (Gen I), an initiative focused on education, health and nutrition, juvenile justice, housing, and youth engagement programs intended to improve the lives of Native youth. The president’s 2017 budget proposal calls for overall funding of $53 million for the NYCP grant program.

As another part of the effort to support Native youth, Department of Education Acting Secretary John B. King Jr. is expected to visit Pine Ridge reservation in May to listen to the needs of tribal officials and share information on the Obama Administration’s programs.

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