Education | National

Lakota Country Times: School for girls prepares to open on Pine Ridge

Anpo Wicahpi, the Pine Ridge Girls School, is located in Porcupine, South Dakota. Photo from Facebook

Anpo Wicahpi, Pine Ridge Girl’s School
By Tom Crash
Lakota Country Times Correspondent

PORCUPINE – The Anpo Wicahpi Pine Ridge School for Girls is accepting applications for 6th and 7th grades now and looks to start the 2016/17 school year on August 23 at the Tiospaye Shakowin Education and Healing Center.

“We’ve looked at the Native American Charter Academy in New Mexico and the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles as models," said Cindi Giago who is coordinating efforts to get the school off the ground "We’re looking at empowering our young women."

“Instead of teaching the culture we are using the culture to teach the students," Giago said. "We’re looking at a college prep curriculum with a foundation in Lakota culture. We’re starting with 6th and 7th grades, about an 8-1 student/teacher ratio and adding a grade each year with the first high school graduating class scheduled for 2021.”

The school is still looking for a lead teacher who will teach language arts and social studies, Helene Gaddy will be teaching math and science while Jesse Stein from New York will be doing computer literacy, robotics and Spanish and will be a tutor as well. The goal is to have at least eight students in each grade. Accreditation is a work in progress.

Cindy Giago is helping open the new school.

Applications are available at the old WPI building north of Porcupine. As part of the process, staff will be looking at math scores and referral letters for English from past teachers and parents.

"We’d like to have applications in by August 1 but we will be having a booth at Oglala Nation," said Giago. "If you can’t make it to our office, call us at (605 455-1218 and we’ll bring an application out to you. School starts on August 23. The first four days will include putting up a tipi, stressing Lakota values, do character builders, work at getting to know each other and working at developing the student’s own identity."

“We’ll need parental and family involvement, there will be a space for parents in the school,” said Giago who earned her bachelors in human services from Oglala Lakota College in 1999 and her masters in management from Colorado Technical University in 2008. “We want to create a family environment, we’re going to provide incentives and will encourage parents to volunteer at the school.”

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Transportation will be an issue; the school is open to any girl student but a limited bus or van service will cover Porcupine, Wounded Knee, Manderson, Rockyford and Sharps Corner. The school will receive no funds from the state but will be funded by private foundations.

“We had meetings in the community and we asked students what they wanted,” said Giago, who with her husband have a blended family of 11 children. “Sure this is a challenge, it’s scary as well, building a new school, lot of promises, lot of responsibilities. We’re going to make this a reality.”

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