Rural Education Investments Help Students Stay in School
Children in communities far and wide are heading back to school, including Oglala Lakota students in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. But for this community, which sees approximately 75 percent of students leave the public school system between eighth grade and high school graduation, student retention is hopefully on the upswing due to the arrival of Lakota Tech High School, a career and technical education school that is in its second year of operations, thanks to the New Markets Tax Credit Program, which is a part of the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund under the U.S. Department of Treasury.
The participation of two Community Development Entities (CDEs), including Dakotas America, for which Dakota Resources is a controlling entity, allowed for the construction of Lakota Tech in Pine Ridge last year. While other traditional public high schools serve students on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Lakota Tech’s 80,000-square-foot facility provides students with career-based technical skills, from business and transportation technology to healthcare and beyond, while also reinforcing Lakota language mastery and Native cultural traditions.
“Lakota Tech provides students in the Oglala Lakota Nation with a more tangible educational experience that students can put to use as soon as they graduate,” Ludens said. “While traditional public high school opportunities are also available for students living on the reservation, the demand for programming like this is evident by the waiting list of students interested in taking career-based courses, hence the expansion of the current facility. Community members can also take advantage of such programming to uplevel their skills by pursuing additional education, such as certificates in Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN).”
As the recipient of the 2021 Non-Metro Qualified Low-Income Community Investment (QLICI) of the Year Award from Novogradac, a national professional services organization, Lakota Tech is in its second school year of existence and is at capacity at 400 students, with an expansion underway. According to Dakotas America’s Managing Director, Dustin Ludens, Lakota Tech meets a critical need for students in the Oglala Lakota Nation, which is the second largest Native American reservation in the U.S. and is one of the most impoverished areas in the nation, with a poverty rate of 44%.
Dakotas America works across four sectors, including education, healthcare, manufacturing, and community facilities, which can include anything from community-based gathering centers to business incubators. As a controlling entity for Dakotas America, Dakota Resources is active in naming members to Dakotas America’s Board of Directors and supports the reporting of community impacts on funded projects, as stipulated by the United States Treasury.
TAKE ACTION: You can learn more about Lakota Tech High School by visiting their website at https://www.olcsd.com/o/lakota-tech. You can learn more about Dakotas America by visiting dakotasamerica.com.