ABQ-based Native American schools network wins award - ABQ Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque-based Native American Community Academy Inspired Schools Network was recently named a winner in the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge Competition.

The My Brother’s Keeper is an initiative of the Obama Foundation that seeks to adopt innovative approaches, strengthen support and build ladders of opportunity for boys and young men of color, according to a news release.

“Our youth leaders continue to inspire us all and make positive changes every day in their schools and communities – we are glad to have the support of the Obama Foundation,” Kara Bobroff, founding member of NACA and Executive Director of NACA Inspired Schools Network, said.

“It has been wonderful to work with our key community partners on the Obama Challenge,” she said. “Together we will continue to celebrate and advocate for Boys and Young Men of Color.”

The NACA Inspired Schools Network supports institutions providing rigorous academics designed for college preparation and those that promote Indigenous culture, according to its website.bright spot

My Brother’s Keeper picked 19 organizations or groups across 10 states and Puerto Rico expected to expand evidence-based initiatives to reduce youth violence, increase effective mentorship programs and improve the lives of boys and young men of color, organizers said in a news release.

The winning organizations will share more than $5 million in grants, direct technical assistance and evaluation support.

“This is a well-deserved recognition for NACA Inspired Schools Network – their efforts make Albuquerque stronger and highlight what makes our city special,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said in a statement.

“As a My Brother’s Keeper partner, we look forward to continuing to work with this group to break down barriers and expand opportunities for young people in our Indigenous communities,” he said.

For more information and a list of New Mexico schools in the Native American Community Academy Inspired Schools Network, visit nacainspiredschoolsnetwork.org.

Kara Bobroff, founding member of NACA and Executive Director of NACA Inspired Schools Network.

NACA Featured on United States Department of Agriculture Newsletter Website

Native American Community Academy Breaks Ground on a New School Garden

November is Native American Heritage Month and a time to celebrate Native culture and traditions. That includes highlighting traditions that connect people to land and promoting the use of local foods. A school in Albuquerque, New Mexico is using its school garden to enhance both its nutritional and cultural curriculum while intersecting with history.  The Native American Community Academy (NACA) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, sits on the grounds of the old Albuquerque Indian Boarding School, originally opened in 1881.  Today, these grounds are still home to a school, but it is a school that embraces and encourages exploration and celebration of Native culture and traditions. 

NACA, established in 2006, is a charter school that connected with more than 150 community partners to focus on the education and support of Native American children attending the Albuquerque School District.  Today, 94 percent of the school’s roughly 460 students are Native American, representing over 60 different tribes.

NACA’s Executive Director, Anpao Duta Flying Earth, explains that the current school garden started as a collaborative effort with another local organization, the La Plazita Institute.  Duta Flying Earth acknowledged that there was room for improvement in their school lunch program, and this needed to be addressed quickly.  “As a school, we have a mission to address the holistic wellness of our students, and when the rate of diabetes and heart disease in our community is atrocious, we have an obligation to tackle these issues.” The  experiences created for students, through this partnership with La Plazita, were aimed at developing a relationship with the healthy food being grown and instilling lasting change for the whole family unit through the student.

The school’s partnership with La Plazita started small and flourished quickly.  Using buses and shuttles to transport NACA students out to the La Plazita grounds, 11th and 12th graders participated in a curriculum that teaches nutrition education using crops that have a strong connection with the heritage and culture of their ancestors. 

The next step will be to launch a new school garden site nearby.  NACA is now in negotiations to lease land that was originally part of federal trust land held by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, then transferred to the local Pueblo tribal conglomerate.  “The students are working on the planning of the new layout," says Duta Flying Earth. "They are involved in the soil testing to determine if we can plant directly into the ground or if we need to build raised beds, everything.  They are really getting their hands dirty,” explains Flying Earth

As to where he would like to see their program in five years, Duta Flying Earth would love to see the new garden completely sustained by students and the community, in partnership with organizations like Food Corps and La Plazita, so the facility can be productive year round.  They would also like to establish a kitchen facility on campus that can handle processing fresh produce on-site and to move away from the pre-packaged meals that they currently receive for their school lunch program.  But for today, the program, with its unique blend of nutrition education and the celebration of Native heritage, continues to move forward.

The Office of Community Food Systems has two fact sheets that promote and encourage Farm to School activities in Indian Country, among many other resources. The fact sheets Bringing Tribal Foods and Traditions into Cafeterias, Classrooms, and Gardens and Gardens in Tribal Communities can be downloaded on the FNS website

NISN Executive Director Kara Bobroff named as an Education Transition Committee Member by Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico governor-elect

Associated Press (AP) Wire picks up and publishes announcements

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday selected a panel of experts to help identify potential cabinet leaders and to make recommendations as the Democrat prepares to take the top office in state government.

Several committees have been established by Lujan Grisham’s team to focus on different areas of government. The committee co-chairs include a former governor who most recently led New Mexico State University as chancellor and a former state police chief.

Lujan Grisham said in a statement that the effort will be bipartisan, with the goal of setting the state on a new path and leveraging every possible opportunity.

“We can build a state government that will create pathways to success for all New Mexico children and families by growing our economy, fixing our broken public education system, improving access to health care, and making our communities safer,” she said.

Lujan Grisham will follow Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, whose second consecutive term wraps up at the end of the year. She will inherit a significant budget surplus for the coming fiscal year — most of which is linked to the state’s oil and natural gas sector.

One of the top challenges for the governor’s office and the Democrat-controlled Legislature will be addressing educational opportunities for minority and low-income students following a landmark court decision earlier this year.

The education transition committee will be headed by former Gov. Garrey Carruthers, a Republican; Kara Bobroff (Diné and Lakota) chief executive of the Native American Community Academy Inspired Schools Network and Founding Principal of NACA; and Everett Chavez, a councilman and former governor of Santo Domingo Pueblo.

The committee will be working with the Higher Education, Public Education and Indian Affairs departments.

The economy team includes Red River Mayor Linda Calhoun and Vince Kadlubek, the co-founder and chief executive officer of the art collaborative Meow Wolf. The Santa Fe-based enterprise created an immersive exhibit that attracted some 500,000 visitors last year and now employs more than 300 people.

Andrew Hsi, a pediatrician and professor at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center will co-chair the health and human services committee with Jennifer Ramo, an attorney who is the executive director of New Mexico Appleseed, a nonprofit organization that works with the poor and under served.

The public safety committee will be led by retired State Police Chief Robert Shilling and retired Brigadier General Judy Griego, the first New Mexico woman to have been promoted to the rank of brigadier general in the New Mexico National Guard.

Toby Velasquez, the deputy director of New Mexico State Parks, and Sarah Cottrell Propst, a former deputy secretary of the state Environment Department, will co-chair the natural resources committee.

NACA Inspired Schools Network Receives Prestigious National Obama Foundation, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Grant Award

 Albuquerque, NM.  On November, 15, 2018 the Native American Community Academy Inspired Schools Network, (NISN) was officially awarded the prestigious, Obama Foundation’s, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Impact Award. One of nineteen organizations across ten states, including Puerto Rico, NISN is recognized by MBKA as a national model committed to reducing youth violence, grow effective mentorship programs, and measurably improve the lives of boys and young men of color. 

 The winning communities represent every region of the country, strong public-private partnerships, and diverse cities, rural areas, Tribal Nations, and barrios of all sizes. Winning organizations will receive a $450,000 grant, direct technical assistance, and evaluation support. Youth and leaders from many of the organizations will participate in the Obama Foundation’s 2018 Summit in Chicago November 18-19.

 In partnership with staff and youth of New Mexico Dream Team, Cultivating Coders, La Plazita Institute, Together for Brothers, Mission: Graduate, MBK Albuquerque and the City of Albuquerque, NISN will deepen and scale a community of practice on social emotional learning. This community of practice will scale the NACA model to encourage safe, equitable, and culturally-relevant school environments that promote the success of boys and young men of color in terms of attendance, persistence, and graduation rates.

 The Network will facilitate a local community of practice, document practices and challenges especially relevant to boys and young men of color and engage youth in sharing their social emotional learning experience with local educational leaders, informing future practices and policies. While the primary population served by the MBK Project will be 460 Indigenous/Native American and Latino boys, NACA Inspired Schools’ expansion will impact all boys/students of color across their network and communities-at-large.

 In April, MBK Alliance launched a new national competition to identify and invest in communities that are making steady progress to substantially improve the lives of boys and young men of color. President Barack Obama says of the MBKA, “My Brother’s Keeper was not about me, it was not about my presidency… It’s about all of us working together. Because ensuring that our young people can go as far as their dreams and hard work will take them is the single most important task that we have as a nation.”

 Please visit www.obama.org/mbka/communties for a full list of all My Brother’s Keeper Alliance IMPACT awardees.

 Our community partners are listed here:

·         New Mexico Dream Team http://nmdreamteam.org/ ,

·         La Plazita Insitute https://laplazitainstitute.org/ ,

·         Together for Brothers, https://www.togetherforbrothers.org/ ,

·         Cultivating Coders, https://cultivatecoders.com/ ,

·         Mission: Graduate, https://missiongraduatenm.org/ ,

·         The City of Albuquerque, https://www.cabq.gov/

·         My Brother’s Keeper ABQ, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/my-brothers-keeper

Native Voices, Native Votes - Register and Rock the Polls!

NISN Schools VOTE! - We know that our vote is important and our voices directly contribute to the care of our children, the health and safety of our schools, and impacts our NA communities far and wide. We will demonstrate a Native American electorate that is informed, empowered and ACTIVE! Let’s do this! Register to vote! Get and out and vote! Inspire your neighbors and relatives to do the same! Show your young student that our voice and vote matter! Be their role model and ROCK THE POLLS!

Check out the New Mexico Secretary of State website to register to VOTE or check your VOTING REGISTRATION STATUS. Find out where to vote, how to update your registration information, review Registration and election information and more!

"Build coalitions among Indian Nations. There is strength in numbers. Your vote counts now as never before." Leonard Peltier (Lakota/Dakota/Turtle Mountain Chippewa)


If you would like to volunteer for our NISN, “Native Voices, Native Votes - Register and Rock the Polls,” campaign please email lopez@nacaschool.org or call/text 505.933.2045.

NACA 13th Annual Feast - Honoring Our Children

Celebrating Wellness, Culture and Healthy Futures - Living our Path of Transformation and Indigenous Values

On Friday, October 12, the Native American Community Academy will be hosting their 13th Annual Feast Day beginning with a Sunrise Ceremony at 6:00 a.m.

At 7:00 am there will be a 5K run hosted by the NACA Language Classes. Registration is now open and you may contact NACA Main Campus at 505.266.0992 for more information.

This year’s theme for the NACA annual feast is, "Honoring Our Children: Wellness, Culture and Healthy Futures - Living our Path of Transformation and Indigenous Values."

We are expecting close to 1500 people this year. Thank you to our families and staff members for your dedication and time in making our feast day a success.

NACA Feast Day is a celebration of excellence in Indigenous education, Native languages, traditions and ways of knowing, as well as song, dance, food and other cultural activities.

Isabel, 14, and a freshman at NACA Main Campus says, “I think NACA Feast is important because it brings everyone in the NACA Community together and we do cultural activities in the classroom too. It’s fun.”

Her best friend Madison says, “At NACA Feast we get to show off our culture and be proud of our identity. My favorite is to watch the dances.”

The 13th Annual NACA feast day themes reflect the school’s core values and the ways in which community equates holistic health, wellness and the empowerment of Native youth. We welcome you to join us and learn more about leadership in indigenous education!

Student processions begin at 10:00 am followed by presentations. Feast will commence 12:30 – 2pm. The event is hosted at NACA main campus (1000 Indian School Rd. ABQ 87104).

Indigenous Educators Corps Member Gives Back to Native School

Kyle Dee, Diné, shares his love for math at Dził Ditł'ooí School of Empowerment, Action and Perseverance - DEAP

Kyle Dee, math specialist and teacher at the NACA Inspired Schools Network (NISN), DEAP believes that understanding math is more than just plugging numbers into a formula. He is a first-year teacher at the Dził Ditł'ooí School of Empowerment, Action and Perseverance, and he tells his students that to know math is to know the story of math and numbers. Kyle has lived in many places but his mother is from Crownepoint, New Mexico near Antelope Lookout. He is deeply connected to where he is from and how it informs where he wants to go.

A current student at the University of New Mexico, Kyle is studying to become a mathematician because he believes studying math intrinsically will assist him in becoming a better math teacher. He has served two AmeriCorps terms for NISN starting in March of 2016. The NISN Indigenous Educators Corps, in partnership with seven (7) different schools and communities, works to deliver enriched educational experiences that build on community-defined needs and strengths for Native American students in New Mexico. Currently, NISN hosts 26 AmeriCorps members across 8 sites.

During his time as an Indigenous Education Corps member, Kyle worked with middle and high school students at the Native American Community Academy (NACA) and coached them in mathematics across grade levels. Now, he is teaching 6-10 grade at DEAP, where he says he conveys to students the meaning of math instead of the misconception that is math is just a bunch of numbers. Kyle says working at the NACA inspired him to push the concepts of math further within his lessons to meaningfully connect with his students.

He uses this philosophy of teaching to interact with his DEAP students. DEAP opened in Fall 2015. Located in Navajo, NM, DEAP honors the history and legacy of Dził Ditł'ooí by consciously balancing the needs of the land with the needs of the people through Dine’ culture revitalization, community action and empowerment, service learning, experiential learning based in Agriculture education, a wellness and perseverance philosophy, and career and college prep focus.

Kyle says that he learned a lot from his teacher mentors at NACA Main Campus. Paula Maxim, Stephanie Hinson, Stacy Leslie and Clem Wings assisted him in teaching strategies and classroom management skills that were able to help him truly connect with middle school students, especially students enrolled in Intervention Math. Later, he went on to teach at the NACA High School Campus located near the UNM School of Library and worked with upper-grade level students.

He wants to pass along to his students the ability to see how math affects them on a daily basis. He teaches students that math skills are needed for their future and that the “real world” is steeped in mathematics. Importantly, Kyle knows that as an Indigenous educator he is able to relate to his students through shared cultural backgrounds, stories, and language. “It’s important that there is more Native representation within the education sector. I can relate to my students through our shared culture and traditions, through our language. In a very real way, I can be a model for my young students,” Kyle says of his work with his DEAP students. He believes in healthy communities and continuously working towards healthy futures for DEAP, Navajo, and all Native communities. In general, he encourages more Native and POC folk to be involved in the education sector. One day, he envisions that some of his current Dził Ditł'ooí School of Empowerment, Action and Perseverance will be in his shoes. That they will find a place at the front of a classroom, teaching young Native students and giving back to their community. For now, he continues to focus on ways to teach mathematics through an Indigenous lens. He appreciates that as a new teacher he has much to learn. Additionally, he knows the innate power in being an Indigenous male educator returning to the reservation to teach young people. Kyle says of his teaching journey, “I do like teaching very much at DEAP. I really do love it. I’m eager to see how our school community will grow. It’s an amazing place of learning.”

For more information on how to join our NISN AmeriCorps Program - Indigenous Educators Corps please contact Ventura Lovato at ventura@nacainspiredschoolsnetwork.org

NISN AmeriCorps Program - Indigenous Educators Corps

Raíces del Saber Xinachtli Community School has Been Approved to Open Doors in Las Cruces, New Mexico in August 2019.

Las Cruces, NM, Sept 6, 2018 – The State Public Education Commission (PEC) voted to approve the Raíces del Saber Xinachtli Community School’s application Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018. The PEC approved Raíces application to move forward into their planning year and the 90:10 dual language immersion school is slated to enroll K-1 students in its first year, adding one grade each year until K-5. Raíces del Saber, (Spanish for Roots of Knowledge) Xinachtli (Nahuatl for the moment a seed germinates) Community School will open their doors to students in Dona Ana county in August 2019.

Raíces del Saber Xinachtli Community School (Raíces) is a public charter that implements a developmentally appropriate rigorous academic program through an interdisciplinary curriculum that is experiential, participatory, biliterate, child centered and culturally responsive. Reclaiming regional, local history and heritage is integral to the mission of Raíces, specifically within a US-Mexico Border context within Doña Ana county and surrounding areas.

"I would like to say that I'm so excited that there's now an opportunity for my daughter to be a part of a program that will allow her to value education while learning about all aspects of her cultural heritage. This program will be a great opportunity to help me pass down to my daughter the gift of language that will keep our Mexican family traditions alive in the absence of my mother and grandmother, who would've helped to make sure every generation be given the gift of knowing and learning the Spanish language,” Nahtasha Garza-Swindle, parent.

Innovative in its approach to education, Raíces implements the Xinachtli instructional model through which children learn the use of symbols and metaphors to conceptualize their relationship with the natural world, a Mesoamerican base-20 mathematics system, and Nahuatl (Aztec) as an enrichment language. Student outcomes also include biliteracy in English and Spanish that promotes s ubject matter proficiency and positive identity formation through a culturally responsive curriculum. Raíces promotes parent participation in all aspects of school life continually reinforcing the bridge between home and the classroom.

Raíces has forged a meaningful relationship with New Mexico State University and has partnered with NMSU College of Education, Myrna’s Children’s Village NMSU (a special pre-school project committed to well-being of children). Raíces hopes to continue collaborations with the Children’s Village project and the NMSU Teacher Preparation Program by providing an instructional model that supports highly qualified teachers who instruct in bilingual and bi-cultural classrooms.

Other community relationships and supporters include the Mayor and members of the Las Cruces City Council, NMSU Director of Ethnic Studies, Director of the NMSU Early Childhood Program, RAZA Development Fund, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, New Mexico Early Childhood Partnership, Ngage New Mexico, CAFé, La Semilla Food Center, Dual Language Education of New Mexico, and early childhood education programs such as Doña Ana County Head Start and the Children’s Reading Alliance of Doña Ana County. Raíces has also established relationships with W.K. Kellogg Foundation and McCune Foundation for support and resources. For more information or questions please contact Lucia V. Carmona (Coordinator) at 575-571-2177 luciavcarmona@gmail.com or Rocio Benedicto (Board Member) at rojustus@ad.nmsu.edu.

Hiyupo Alliance at NACA - "To Call People Forward."

Hiyupo (He-You-po) to call people forward. A call to action, to battle. Follow us as we work with the Boys and Young Men at NACA to Heal, Grow, and Thrive. The

The Native American Community Academy Hiyupo Boy's Group has changed their name to the Hiyupo Alliance. They are expanding initiatives to engage more boys and young men through an alliance of programs including gardening, drum group, entrepreneurship, leadership, and wellness. Additionally the Hiyupo Alliance is kicking off their "Uncles Mentoring Program," and more information will be found soon on their social media page.  You may also contact Program Director Makhpiya J. Black Elk at makhpiya.be@gmail.com for more information. Recently the Hiyupo Alliance (Uncles and their Nephews) built NACA's newest sweat lodge. Black Elk said of the sweat lodge, "We aren’t just building a lodge for ceremony, we are building community where we can unapologetically heal, grow, and thrive." Hiyupo Alliance just launched their recruitment initiative for the semester/academic year.  Check out their page: https://www.facebook.com/Hiyupo-Alliance-394787504035201/


Spoken Word Poetry as Medicine: A SEL Practice of Celebration and Identity for Indigenous and POC Youth

This article was published online at "Education First," website. Authored by NACA educator, NISN team member and City of ABQ Poet Laureate, Jessica Helen Lopez, "Spoken Word Poetry as Medicine: A SEL Practice of Celebration and Identity for Indigenous and POC Youth," was published on July 7, 2018.


July 7, 2018. ABQ, NM - A young poet walks onto the hardwood floor of an illuminated stage. She positions herself within the bright orb of a theatrical flood light. A heavy and deep red velvet curtain provides the backdrop and frames her and a single microphone.  She takes a moment, breathes inaudibly and assesses the audience with an even gaze.  It is a packed house and the expectant faces look back at her, hushed with anticipation. Her first words are not poetry, rather an introduction of her clans spoken in Diné.  Her voice is strong and clear.

Yá’át’ééh, shik’éí dóó shidine’é Shí éí Kya yinishyé Ta’neeszahnii nishłį́ Dzi ł t ł’ahnii bashishchiin Hashk’ąą hadzohi dashicheii Kiyaa’áanii dashinalí Ákót’éego diné asdzáán nishłį́ Shimá éí Monica wolyé Dóó Shi’zhé’é éí Garrick wolyé Tʼiistsʼóózí déé’ naashá Ahéhee.’

“Kya” is Navajo, seventeen years old and loves to write. She struggles to balance home life and school work.  On most days she is a vibrant, smiling student, who likes to doodle on her hands with a ballpoint pen.  On other days, she is withdrawn, lethargic and unsmiling.  On these days she is quiet and not willing to share in class.  Nonetheless, she continues to scrawl verses of poetry in her tattered, beloved journal that she carries everywhere she goes.

As her poetry teacher and mentor at the Native American Community Academy (NACA) and an educator for the last eighteen years, I observe and understand that Kya will have good days and bad days. This is very much like a good portion of the students I have worked with in almost the two decades I have taught in middle schools, high schools, summer programs, and even in detention center charter schools across New Mexico.

The bottom line I have always found, is that reading, writing and performing poetry engages students to work through familial, communal, social, and emotional issues. Reading original poetry aloud in class can foster trust and empathy in the classroom community, while also emphasizing speaking and listening skills. And it is always of the utmost importance to honor student culture and language while doing so.  This is especially imperative for Indigenous youth and students of color. It is my responsibility as an educator to provide robust and culturally-relevant and specific curriculum for my students; curriculum that is not only rigorous, but also framed through the lens of social and emotional wellness.

This means that in the classroom, we must honor the vast and heterogeneous cultural histories, traditional practices and contemporary, intersectional identities of Indigenous and POC peoples across Turtle Island and beyond. Our poetry and classroom texts must reflect the young people sitting in the desks looking back at us, and not just the prescribed Western canonized works of a select few. Additionally, it is then that we educators will find ourselves contextualizing social and emotional learning through a strength-based approach that celebrates students and where they come from, as well as where they plan to go.  Poetry and the act of performing—sharing your stories with others—can work to cultivate a strong positive cultural identity for young people that is, in turn, ultimately consistent with academic achievement.

Joy Harjo, a Muskogee and Creek Nation poet, writes, “The poetry ancestors scattered to all parts of the world. Each family of trees, animals, wind, stones needed a poet.”

Harjo celebrates the word as a living and organic organism. It is a legacy of our ancestors and we are the honored descendants. Kya understands this. She says her medicine is administered through writing free verse and she code-switches fluidly between Diné and English in her poems. When she is anxious she writes about it. When she is depressed or experiencing a conflict with a peer, she writes about it. When she is angry or frustrated with the world, she writes about it. Like Harjo, Kya knows that every emotion, too, is need of a poem.

Kya writes about a lot of different topics. She writes of baby sisters and little brothers, Changing Woman, best friends, the continued epidemic of missing and murdered Native women, pow wows and her favorite punk rock bands. Kya has become well-aware that her knack and love for writing poetry and storytelling is a powerful medicine that promotes self-care, health and emotional wellness. It is also a platform for her to opine on the ways she perceives the injustices and inequities of the world. It is a platform to be heard and to hear others.

Speaking of her journey with poetry, she says, “For me poetry has been a way to get a lot of my emotions out. For a long time I was holding a lot of things in and that led to me actually hurting myself and hurting the people around me, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.”

She goes on to say, “I had to find a way to let it all out, and through poetry I was able to share that with the people I love, as an explanation for what was happening to me that I couldn’t actually voice in a regular conversation. Poetry really is a cathartic way for me to be myself. I am from my mother, and in the Navajo tradition you are from your mother’s clan. So, I am Tangle People and I am a poet.”

At NACA, representing over 65 plus tribal affiliations among our student population, it is our mission to engage students, educators, families, and community in creating a school that will prepare our students to grow from adolescence to adulthood and begin strengthening communities by developing strong leaders who are academically prepared, secure in their identity and healthy. It is the language of our vision and mission that informs the DNA of our school culture. The NACA community and experience will help students incorporate wellness and healthy life practices, community service and an appreciation of cultural diversity into their lives.

Our best practices of social and emotional learning start with the fundamentals of honoring where we come from. Essentially, it is a holistic and traditional circle of understanding ourselves in relation to our origin stories, relatives, and the world around us.

Social and emotional wellness is one in the same with our NACA personal wellness wheel, a visual tool that helps to guide our students in representing our core values of culture, community, responsibility, respect, reflection and perseverance. It is also a framework for our curriculum design across content and grade levels. Our wellness wheel is centered in a respect for Indigenous knowledge, thus a respect for our young students of our school.

The merits of spoken word poetry are plenty. Students are prompted to write about their own experiences, to imagine a world where physics need not to be applied; break barriers of imagination using imagery, hyperbole, alliteration, and even lyricism. Students write about celebration of self and of hardships endured. The act of writing with others in the room creates an immediate bond between peers. The act of sharing it aloud deepens it further. Poetry and spoken word align themselves with a standards and benchmarks, a plus for teachers, but also in its own way is completely unbridled and uncensored. Writing and performing original poetry is a transformative event for young people, in which they take ownership of their own learning, as well as the stories that connect all of us.

In the words of the young poet Kya, who shares her story in only the way she unequivocally and uniquely can,

I’ve been judged and ridiculed,

been asked if my people are even alive.

Are you kidding me? We aren’t just

alive. We are fighting and thriving and rhyming and winding

through all the tribulation branded into these bodies

inherited from our ancestors.

Twenty-one plus generations of wise perceptions

greater than Socrates himself contained in my sacred vessel—

Because I am,

we are,

invoking change.