Morongo Unveils New Learning Center; Tribal Educational Programs Raising Test Scores and Erasing Dropout Rate
The 4,320-square-foot complex is located at 11952 Potrero Road, across the road from the tribal administration center. It houses offices, computer stations, study areas and educational resources. The tribe invested more than $120,000 in furnishings, building and support services to establish the center as a significant part of the tribe's educational services to its members.
“This program has proven its value in assisting our youth and adults to achieve their educational goals. Their achievements in turn help the tribe as a whole to remain self-reliant in providing for our future generations.”
School dropout rates once ran high on the reservation but tribal leaders are determined to erase that record by making educational services a priority. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Office of Indian Education Programs, American Indian students have a dropout rate twice the national average; the highest dropout rate of any United States ethnic or racial group. About three out of every ten Native students drop out of school before graduating from high school both on reservations and in cities.
The Morongo Tutoring Program was created fourteen years ago by the Morongo Tribal Council and expanded six years ago in January 1999 following the signing of the tribal gaming compacts. The program's specific goals include improved academic skills following state guidelines, accelerated reading skill levels, identifying potentially at-risk students at the elementary level, developing self-esteem through positive reinforcement and cultivating study skills that promote academic success.
"The Morongo tutoring program has focused on building a strong working relationship with the school district for the benefit of the students through open communication and collaboration. Their hard work has resulted in higher test scores and increasing graduation rates," said Kathy McNamara, superintendent of the Banning Unified School District.
The open house will be held on September 29 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. In addition to a dedication program at 4:30 p.m., there will be informal tours and refreshments served.
"It is important for the community to see what the Morongo tribe is providing for our youth through the revenues we receive from Indian gaming," said Maurice Lyons, Morongo tribal chairman. "This program has proven its value in assisting our youth and adults to achieve their educational goals. Their achievements in turn help the tribe as a whole to remain self-reliant in providing for our future generations."
The Morongo Tutoring Program serves the children of tribal members with tutoring programs both in the classroom and after school, and a summer school program. The summer school program provides students the opportunity to learn more about Indian culture and history through field trips and readings that are not offered in regular classroom settings. The tutoring program currently serves 170 children in the classroom and after school. The summer school program had a total of 72 children who took part in field trips and cultural activities.
"This program has been such a success and it has grown so much over the past fourteen years that we just wanted to invite the community in to see what the program is and how it works in the community. It will be an opportunity for us to thank those in the education community and the Morongo tribe for making our programs such a success," said Karyl Martin, Morongo Tutoring Program director.
The Morongo tutoring program has thirteen certified tutors on staff who work in the classroom during the day and then offer after-school programs that are designed to help students complete their homework and receive more one-on-one guidance. The dedication and open house will also introduce the Morongo Independent Study Program, created in 2001 to serve those students who needed an alternative means of completing their high school careers. Along with this program, the reading and math programs were started to help students who needed extra assistance in these areas.
With the success of the student programs, it became clear that adults were also looking for assistance to earn their GED or improve their academic and computer skills. In 2005, the Morongo Alternative Learning Program was created which merged the Independent Study, GED and specialized classes into one. The alternative education program currently serves thirty students with five adults having received their GEDs to date.
"It was a natural transition to establish programs that were also open to adults on the reservation," said Jordan Livingston, Morongo Alternative Education coordinator.
The Morongo tribe runs a tribal preschool program and provides college scholarships for graduating high school students. Last year the tribe debuted a unique scholarship program that makes college funds available to eligible members of other tribes.