Dahkota Brown, a 2013 Center for Native American Youth Champion for Change recently started a GoFundMe fundraiser to raise $2,400 of $6,000 needed for 15 Native students to complete their high school graduation credits on time to graduate with their fellow classmates.
Brown’s NERDS group (Native Education Raising Dedicated Students) has worked to offer summer school for those Native students lacking the required credits to graduate with their classmates.
“We have secured a classroom, are paying for BYU Online courses, have a tutor, computers, and healthy food for meals three days a week for the entire summer,” says Brown, 15.
“This allows students to make up a minimum of 5 credits or up to 15 credits if they stay focused. The summer program, for 15 students is $6,000, of which we have raised more than 50 percent already and some students [have been] hard at work since last week. We are out of funds with seven additional students in need of starting their courses this week.”
At the time of this article, the NERDS group had raised nearly $4,000 with a frybread and NDN taco fundraiser. They are also applying for grants, but they have not yet received any responses.
When ICTMN asked Brown why he was working so hard for the betterment of fellow students, his response was a selfless one.
“I don’t want to go to college alone! But, honestly though, statistics are not improving for our people and my own peers don’t see a way out of the cycle of poverty, abuse, or the feeling of not identifying with their own race. Together we can share our fears and frustrations then encourage each other to stay in school, educate ourselves and plan for the future.”
Brown has also lauded the success of his NERDS program at his school, which helped several students who were failing to maintain GPA’s as high as 3.87 and other students to graduate high school and get accepted to such colleges as Harvard and Stanford.
Brown also said of the fundraiser, which may or may not be successful—“It WILL work out. It has to!”
“I realize it’s hard for some adults to believe in a 15-year-old, and that their money will be spent on improving grades and lives of other kids and not on video games and pizza—but without funding and support I am just a great idea in a cool NERDS shirt with a group of kids that believed in me, but were let down that nobody else believed in them,” Brown said.
“If we don’t get the funds to pay for the classes, or to purchase computers and printers for some of the students to succeed during their school year and do homework then we are basically telling them they aren’t worth it because we don’t think they will do the work anyway. Simply put, without funding to support this summer school the students will not be allowed to make up missing credits,” he said.
Brown has put his support where it counts and the school is taking him seriously.
The Amador Unified School District has donated the Indian Education tutor room at the Junior High campus. Additionally, students will use computers to access online courses. An Indian Education tutor will oversee the course of four months.
“NERDS has offered a small salary of which we hope to pay out of the donations,” Brown said.
“NERDS has a projected operating cost of $50,000 for a year to sustain and grow the group. Funds over the need of summer school will remain in our community foundation account and help with the yearly expenses,” he said.
To donate to the NERDS Summer School for HS Makeup Credit, visit their GoFundMe site.