WASHINGTON, D.C. – William Mendoza, Director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education at the U.S. Department of Education, and Dr. Charles M. “Monty” Roessel, Director of the Bureau of Indian Education, today announced that the Pine Ridge School in South Dakota has received $218,000 at their request under the U.S. Department of Education’s Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant program to aid in recovery from student suicides and suicide attempts.
The Pine Ridge School, which serves the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, requested assistance after experiencing a significant increase in the number of counseling referrals, suicide ideations, and suicide attempts between August 2014 and April 2015.Two of the students who committed suicide were high school students and two were middle-school age.
“We are heartbroken about the tragic loss of life and are committed to working with the Pine Ridge community as it heals. These funds will help Pine Ridge School’s continued efforts to restore the learning environment in the face of these great tragedies.” said Mendoza. “This Administration is committed to supporting tribes in their work to meet the needs of their students. We all must do more to address the challenges across Indian Country.”
“Children and youth need help in seeing that their lives have meaning and that they, too, have the power to create promising futures for themselves. No tribe can long endure the loss of its lifeblood, its children and youth, to suicide,” said Roessel. “Thanks to the Department of Education and the SERV Program, the Pine Ridge School will be able to begin to help its students and their families onto healthier life paths that lead to more positive outcomes.”
In line with the Obama Administration’s Generation Indigenous (“Gen-I”) initiative to improve the lives of Native youth by removing the barriers for their progress and academic success, the SERV grant will support a culturally appropriate approach to the recovery of Native youth at Pine Ridge School. The grant will enable the Pine Ridge School to hire additional counselors and social workers to help students during the summer school session and the next school year. It also will support implementation of a multi-faceted and holistic approach to healing that is based on Lakota traditional culture and relevant to Pine Ridge School students, who have dealt with the sudden loss of classmates to suicide or know those who have attempted suicide.
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