SHERIDAN — As the first day of the new school year approaches, a local group is trying to make sure that the beginning of the school year gets off to a good start for Native American students.
MORE, or Mah’heo’o is on the Rez Everyday, is spearheading an effort to provide backpacks, school supplies and new school clothes for students on nearby Indian reservations.
“I think it helps them to start the year with the mindset to learn and they are not so worried about the things they shouldn’t have to worry about,” founding director of MORE, Christie American Horse said about the benefits of the program to students. “I think too when you can come to school with a new outfit and new school supplies, you feel good. Kids are nervous starting a new classroom anyway, I think it just helps them to feel good about themselves and gives them a more positive attitude starting the year.”
The program, Stack the Packs, is in its third year. Though it had a slow start, American Horse said there has been growth in the program. The first year, approximately 1,700 items were donated, while last year’s number jumped to 2,300 items donated, allowing the group to send more than 50 backpacks filled with supplies, to the Wind River Indian Reservation.
To help target their efforts, the group works with existing entities and individuals on the reservation.
“We try to work with the people and organizations on the reservation as opposed to coming in as an outsider and doing stuff,” American Horse said. “I try to keep in contact with the reservation and find out what they need and work from there.”
Major partners include pastors and churches working on the reservations, as well as teachers.
“Usually the teachers have a really good feel for where the need is,” American Horse said. “A lot of the teachers there spend their own money to provide for the kids.”
In the past, backpacks and school supplies have been donated to Busby schools, the Wind River Reservation and schools in Wyola. This year, American Horse said the group is again focusing on Busby schools and will also donate to the Fort Peck Reservation. Any additional items that come in through the school year will be donated to the Wind River Reservation.
American Horse said donations of new or gently used backpacks as well as school supplies can be dropped off at Marla’s Cakes and Specialties store downtown. They are also accepting donations of new children and youth clothing. School supplies that are requested include binders, notebooks, pens, pencils, glue and glue sticks, erasers, loose leaf paper and pencil sharpeners.
For people who wish to donate financially, American Horse said a $6 donation will buy supplies for an elementary student, $8 will buy supplies for a junior high student and $12 will buy supplies for a high school student.
The group is also holding a yard sale Aug. 16 throughout the day, at 1357 N. Main, with all proceeds being used to purchase backpacks and supplies.
In addition to donations of school supplies and backpacks, MORE is in need of volunteers to help sort the donated items, fill the backpacks and possibly deliver the items to the reservations.
To donate money, items or to volunteer, contact American Horse at 461-3730. Financial or other donations can be mailed to PO Box 467 Sheridan, WY 82801. American Horse said donations at any time are welcome, but she is hoping to get the majority of donations by the last week of August.