A local community center in Sioux City, Iowa, is implementing an incentive that aims to reduce the number of Native American middle and high school dropouts. The Sioux City Urban Native Center is offering cash incentives to Native students to encourage them to graduate high school.
Given the numerous educational disadvantages Indigenous youth face, the program draws attention to and addresses a problem that stretches far beyond Iowa.
Cash For Educational Success
The community center’s program will alter cash incentives and other rewards between each person. For example, video game consoles are alternative options students can choose.
After students sign up for the program, they can earn cash for earning good grades, maintaining consistent school attendance, and choosing to attend college.
Although these efforts are confined to the Sioux City community, they take on an issue deeply rooted in Native American history. Therefore, the potential to generate waves of change amongst Indigenous students is immeasurable.
Drawing Attention To A National Dilemma
Sioux City’s cash incentives draw attention to the disproportionate rate of Native American dropouts in the school district. Over the past ten years, the community has observed an alarming number of Indigenous students dropping out of school.
Although they only make up 3% of the school district’s population, Natives accounted for 7% of the total dropouts. Given the long-term effects of dropping out of school, the weight of Sioux City’s cash incentive program is considerable.
The program was built with a first-hand understanding of the pervasiveness of the educational disadvantages Indigenous students encounter. The Cultural Coordinator at the Sioux City Urban Native Center, Kenneth Provost, dropped out of high school himself. So, the matter is very close to his heart.
But Provost found himself in a situation where he was offered cash as an incentive to get his GED. An opportunity, he describes, as life-changing. “I was able to take on certain positions because I had my GED. It’s all about that diploma to get you where you want to be and where you need to be,” he attests.
In Iowa alone, Native American students accounted for about 7% of total dropouts for the year, the highest amongst any ethnic group. On top of that, Iowa observed a higher percentage of Indigenous students failing to graduate high school than the year prior.
Still, this issue stretches far beyond the state lines of Iowa; the entire country sees a similar pattern. For example, Native American students see a dropout rate between 29-36% across the United States. What’s more, these kids typically leave school between 7th and 12th grade.
The Reason Behind Alarming Native American Dropout Rates
So, why do Native American students face noticeably higher and consistent dropout rates? One of the primary explanations is a distrust in the American education system, instilled in Natives after European settlers forcibly took over their land hundreds of years ago.
Early in history, the American government forced Native American children into boarding schools to adjust them to a new way of life. Although the motive may have been positive, the result was any but.
These Native American children would regularly face abuse for speaking their native tongue, practicing their religion, and engaging in cultural activities. In the end, this resulted in a general distrust in American schools and the education system.
And these feelings of resentment have continued throughout history, ultimately leading to a misunderstanding of the American education system and its importance.
Sioux City’s cash incentive sets a course for a more positive shift. It hopes to repair some of the education system’s damage to Native American students. The community center’s program also has the ability to demonstrate just how vital a high school degree is for students.
Overall, this Iowan city is setting Native American students up for both educational and economic success.