At the start of the school year the goal of Warm Springs Roots was to enroll 30 students in the program. Roots is the 509-J school district alternative education program on the reservation.
The goal of 30 students was ambitious, as the previous year only 12 students had enrolled in the Warm Springs alternative education program.
There are now 41 students in the Roots program. Twelve of these students will likely have enough credits at the end of this school year to graduate, said Dawn Smith, program director.
The students take math, English and other courses online, working toward the high school credits needed to graduate.
“This has been a success so far,” Smith was saying recently. “We’re doing what we set out to do.”
A part of the reason for the success is the cultural component of the program, Smith said. This comes through the work-experience aspect of Roots. During the first semester the subject was introduction to agriculture, followed by carpentry.
The students are remodeling a single-wide trailer located by the Education building, learning carpentry as they go. They’ve partnered with Utilities on this project. When they’re finished with the remodel, Roots will donate the trailer to the VFW for a veteran’s housing.
This week Roots visited Warm Springs Composite Products, and for the rest of the semester will work on forestry with the Branch of Natural Resources.
These hands-on lessons come from members of the Warm Springs community, providing the cultural component with the academics. The Roots program, located in trailers by teachers’ row, has three staff: Earl Simmons, Lana Leonard and Dawn Smith. Simmons is a teacher, and Lana is the community liaison.
The long-term goal of the Roots program, Smith says, is to reclaim every student who has dropped out who is not yet 21. This is also an Education priority of Tribal Council.
Council members are also interested in the idea of a charter school on the reservation. If the funding aspects can be worked out with the school district, then Roots could serve as that school, Smith said.