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Tempe Union isn’t the only school district trying to show a greater acknowledgment of Native Americans.

The Kyrene Governing Board recently unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding to work with the nonprofit Phoenix Indian Center to hold classes this spring and summer for Native American students in sixth through eighth grades.

The weekly classes will combine two programs – a multicultural class on substance abuse called “keepin’ it REAL”/Living in 2 Worlds” and a program called “Speak Up, Be Safe,” or SUBS, which teaches children how to prevent and break cycles of neglect, bullying and domestic abuse.

The free classes are slated to be held in person for 12 weeks at Kyrene schools, though Kyrene and the Phoenix Indian Center have the option to work on a virtual platform if need be. 

Participation in the classes is voluntary, according to the agreement, though students will be invited to attend.

The Phoenix Indian Center will provide a trained American Indian facilitator for the class who will not only be trained in the two programs but will also liaison with the district on the program’s progress and any issues that might arise, according to the agreement.

“Living in 2 Worlds (L2W) is a well-researched, evidence-based, cultural/academic program that provides culture specific substance abuse prevention curriculum for American Indian/Alaskan Native (Indigenous) youth in the fourth/fifth through eighth grades,” the agreement states. 

“The curriculum as developed by educators specializing in substance abuse, cultural knowledge and is entirely cross-walked with the state educational standards,” it adds, noting the curriculum emphasizes “increasing protective factors by using culturally appropriate response to “Refuse|Explain|Avoid|Leave risky situations.”

“Both curriculums are designed with strong parent/caretaker involvement through take home assignments and activities to be completed by the next scheduled class session,” the agreement states.

Phoenix Indian Center also commits to provide information to families about Kyrene’s student services should that family be in need or want to access other services we provide.

The Phoenix Indian Center is the oldest American Indian nonprofit of its kind in the United States. 

It was formed in 1947 as an outgrowth of Native Americans moving off reservations and into the city not only to sell their crafts and goods but as a result of federal public policy to assimilate Indians and  “remove their practice of Native culture and traditions through the break-up of reservation systems,” the center says on its website.

“As a result, several Indian Centers were formed in the major “relocation” cities across the country,” it continues. 

“These centers were crucial in providing a place for American Indians to connect and socialize with other Indians and to receive various necessary services as they were removed to live city life. Phoenix was designated as one of the original ‘relocation cities.’”

Over time the Phoenix center has evolved into a place that provides job training and other services to thousands of Native Americans who decide to live off reservations.

“We provide a safe, supportive environment for American Indian people looking for opportunity in this dynamic but unfamiliar and often challenging urban setting,” its website states.

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