Seattle ends crucial indigenous youth program

Every youth that regularly attended Clear Sky graduated from high school, yet the district wants to end the program anyway.

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Seattle Schools’ has decided to end Clear Sky, a crucial indigenous youth program that provides tutoring, mentorship, cultural lessons, and leadership and civic engagement training for children in the Seattle School District.

Clear Sky evening program was founded and operated by the Urban Native Education Alliance (UNEA). According to the school district, UNEA was not meeting the appropriate requirements to have space in schools. The district claims that they attempted to communicate and work with UNEA to “bring the goals of the school and practices of the organization into alignment,” said district spokesperson Tim Robinson.

But according to the UNEA, these claims are false. “We dispute all those claims,” said UNEA Chair Sarah Sense-Wilson, who oversees the Clear Sky program.

Although the district has promised that Clear Sky will be able to rent space in district facilities, they have not committed to which facilities will be available. Several schools in the district were previously used in hosting important cultural events. Licton Springs K-8 and Robert Eagle Staff Middle School currently co-occupy the site of Licton Springs, a sacred indigenous ground. Schools located on Licton Springs have been hosting Native education and cultural events since the 1970s.

Clear Sky is less perturbed by the fact that it now has to pay for space to rent for its activities than it is about the lack of access Robert Eagle Staff and facilities at the Licton Springs.

According to Sense-Wilson, the school district has made it clear the program is no longer welcome at Licton Springs.

Native American youth have long been left behind in the public school system. Native youth have the worst achievement scores and lowest graduation rates of any student subgroup. According to U.S. News, about 67 percent of American Indian students will graduate from high school, compared to the national average of 80 percent. This fact is also true for indigenous students in the Seattle school district, yet every youth that regularly attended Clear Sky graduated from high school.

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