In a continued effort to improve education for its Native American students and parents, the San Juan School District applied for and received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. This opportunity was created by U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, when she launched a grant competition to promote educational choices for Native American students. DeVos stated, “All too often, Native American students do not have access to high quality education options tailored to meet their needs, culture, heritage, and ambitions.” 

The San Juan School District, in partnership with the Navajo Nation and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes, will implement the Accessing Choices in Education (ACE) grant beginning in the fall of 2021. The project will serve 1,831 American Indian students along with their parents located in San Juan School District (SJSD). This grant follows the Native Youth Communities Project (NYCP) grant that SJSD successfully implemented over the past five years under the direction of Student Support Services Director Trevor Olsen. The NYCP grant had a significant impact on Native American students in SJSD, improving resiliency, ACT scores, graduation rates, and college and career readiness. The ACE grant will continue this work while including additional entities to increase the number of options available to Native American students in San Juan School District.

For tribal communities which are often faced with limited choices, the ACE program can provide support for a wide variety of educational activities. These activities include, but are not limited to: culturally relevant career exploration, skills development, counseling and mentorships, family engagement, test preparation, credit recovery, dual/concurrent enrollment, and increased course offerings. The ACE program will also help eliminate barriers to student success, monitor student progress, and provide coaching/mentoring opportunities for students.

The implementation of the grant will begin with a planning year which will involve hiring personnel, securing service providers, and developing a method to collect feedback. A parent feedback process is a requirement of the grant and will be instrumental in the program’s success. An online parent portal will be developed to provide students and parents with the opportunity to select services, ask questions, seek help, and provide feedback. The remaining grant allocations will be used throughout the next three years to provide services and support for Native American students as they prepare for their futures.

The ACE grant will help SJSD continue to partner with local tribes and other entities to continue improving education services and opportunities for Native American students and parents.