Education | National

Native Sun News: Charter school paves way for Indian students

The following story was written and reported by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

Members of “Sweet Nations,” a girl’s group dedicated to young NACA women geared towards building a sister-community within the school as well as improving healthy communication, self-esteem, and community-building skills. This group is student-driven and facilitated by the girls themselves.

Charter School paves way for Indian students
By Karin Eagle
Native Sun News Staff Writer

ALBUQUERQUE — For many Native American students coming out of high school, both on and off reservations, the possibility of college opportunities is viewed as highly unlikely. Many programs have been established to counter this situation with varying degrees of success.

Blending cultural and ethnic backgrounds as well as traditional and modern approaches, a charter school in New Mexico is taking Native American students into a new era of college preparation.

The Native American Community Academy (NACA) is a tuition-free public charter school serving students in middle and high school. Originally located in the Southeast Heights of Albuquerque, the school has relocated to 1000 Indian School Road NW.

More than 37 tribes are represented at the small school that seeks to integrate culture, wellness, language, community, family, and college preparation for each student.

With a philosophy that is grounded in both the Native American tradition and a rigorous, modern approach to college-preparatory education a certain level of commitment is expected from not only the students but the teachers and parents as well.

Among the goals of the school, which employs teachers and support staff from across Indian country, is to engage students and their families in creating a school that will see the student age from adolescence to adulthood with the goal of strengthening their communities. Promoting leadership building and seeing academically prepared students who are strong in their identity and healthy graduate is the goal of the educators at NACA.

“Our vision is of a thriving and dynamic community where students, educators, families and Native community leaders come together, creating a place for students to grow, become leaders, and prepare to excel in both college and life in general, “says Kara Bobroff, the founder of NACA and the current principal.

Kara Bobroff, Navajo and Lakota, was raised in Albuquerque. She began her educational career teaching behaviorally disordered middle school students in Albuquerque. She served as Assistant Principal in APS at a low-income urban school for two years and for four years at a “Distinguished School” in Marin County, CA.

Bobroff was recently identified as one of the “Best Emerging Social Entrepreneurs” in the country and awarded a national Echoing Green Fellowship to establish NACA as one of the first urban academies to support language, culture, and health and college preparation for youth. Through her work, NACA has been selected as the first “Collaborative Charter” in the state of New Mexico by the Albuquerque Public School District.

Bobroff received her Master’s in Special Education and an Ed.S in Educational Administration as a Danforth Scholar from the University of New Mexico. As a graduate of Albuquerque Public Schools and UNM, Bobroff has used her professional training and experience in public education to develop thoughtful curricula, rigorous academic standards and real partnerships with parents and communities.

Her role models represent a long line of educators such as her family, colleagues and gifted mentors. She hopes that NACA can provide students with what great teachers and mentors have provided her along the way.

NACA faculty are committed to guiding students to deeply explore specific subject areas, while also being mindful of making connections across these disciplines.

To do this, teachers create quarterly backward plans that include Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions, formal and summative assessments, cultural connections and specific knowledge and skills that the students will master.

Teachers publish and share these plans and receive specific feedback from the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, the Instructional Coordinator, and through Professional Learning Communities, to insure that a high academic standards and that the entire academic program is aligned and integrated.

NACA offers language classes with cultural preservation in mind. Navajo or Diné is offered to all grades, with Diné Government courses offered to the higher grades. Lakota language classes are also available to all grades long with Spanish.

The academic areas include math, science, language arts, music, social studies, which includes both U.S. History and Native American Studies, Native literature, visual arts, personal wellness and the afore mentioned Native language classes. In addition to all that students learn in a formal classroom setting, NACA places strong importance on experiential learning through Academic Activities and Learning Trips, Out-of-School Time Learning, and other Special Programs.

Credit requirements are all in alignment with the state PED graduation requirements.

“NACA Rocks” is the alternative music program that, unlike traditional school bands and orchestras, focuses exclusively on rock music. The program was designed to enhance the benefits of music in schools by widening the appeal to students who excel in alternative music forms.

Kids who would not normally become involved in school music are now experiencing the advantage of playing in school: better grades, better attendance, and higher performance levels. The NACA Rocks band performs at all of the school’s functions, giving students the same performance experience that they would have in a more traditional music.

In Social Studies students explore Native American, New Mexican, U.S. and World History, Geography and create projects and presentations for National History Day.

NACA’s Native Literature courses provide students with an opportunity to master reading strategies while exploring works from Native American Fiction and Non-Fiction authors. Students learn to analyze and question the text they read, build vocabulary knowledge, apply tools for effective paragraph structure, and build test taking strategies, all while learning about culture and identity.

The Lakota Language Program provides the opportunity for Native American students to explore the Lakota language while learning about Lakota culture, history, spirituality, art, food, and other topics.

Through the program, Native American students learn basic oral and written Lakota vocabulary and grammar. In addition, the Lakota Language Program continues to advance students’ skills and knowledge in literacy (reading, writing, and speaking), social sciences, natural sciences, and visual and fine arts, while enhancing their connection to community, history, and culture.

From traditional Native crafts to skateboard design competitions, NACA students are exposed diverse and meaningful opportunities in visual arts. Additionally, through collaboration with the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, a visiting professor teaches art at NACA under the “Expanding the Circle” program that focuses on the success of native youth in higher education and beyond.

In fostering the theme of strong communities, NACA has created significant connections and collaborations in the community to provide success for students. Some collaborations help NACA to connect students to the community while others provide resources for NACA academics, projects, activities, and initiatives.

Many of these collaborations provide exciting experiential education opportunities for students that help improve positive sense of self, positive associations with peers, healthy beliefs, and establish clear standards for behavior, ultimately keeping kids healthy, decreasing dropout and drug use rates, and minimizing depression among our students.

Students attending NACA have access to on-site free health care and dental services, emotional and behavioral health counseling and services. Families of students are also included having access to those services.

NACA receives students from all tribes represented in and around Albuquerque, and opens its enrollment to students from all backgrounds. In the 2013/2014 school year NACA’s student body population includes 380 students representing nearly 40 different tribes.

While 94% of the students are Native American, some have heritage that draws from other cultures such as African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, and even Panamanian.

NACA emphasizes and celebrates the indigenous background of each person, regardless of their ethnic group, and acknowledges distinct linguistic, cultural and socio-organizational uniqueness through education.

The demographic breakdown of currently enrolled students includes: 94% Native American; 6% Hispanic; and 1% Anglo youth who reside within the urban city of Albuquerque as well as youth from surrounding cities, towns, pueblos, and villages. Currently donations automatically go toward the cost of the new school facility. Potential donors who would like to support any specific academic or extracurricular program are welcome to do so. You can find information on supporting NACA at their website.

More information about the charter school, including information on the application process and donating to the school, visit their website at

“NACA’s core philosophy is built on the essential values of its community and grounded in the Native American perspective,” explains Bobroff” It is the clear understanding that educating a child is not simply an academic process. To truly prepare a child for academic and life success, NACA believes the school experience must reach as well as honor the child on many levels and that the approach must be integrated.”

(Contact Karin Eagle at

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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