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Education students hold school supply drive for Native American students

ISSUED: 26 September 2013
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Twenty-four education students at Shepherd University are collecting school supplies for Native American students on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana.

Dr. Jennifer Penland, assistant professor of education and indigenous scholar at Shepherd, said this is one way for her students to implement social studies strategies they are learning about in her pedagogy II class.

“This project establishes a relationship with local and national communities, broadening students’ horizons in humanities to value something in their educational experience,” Penland said.

It was her recent grant work involving Appalachian American Indians that caught the attention of sixth grade student, Holly Stover, in Boonsboro, Maryland, and her mother, Julia Cox, who already had connections to the Blackfoot Tribe through Julia’s office. Stover exchanges letters with one of those Native American students, and said she got the idea for a school supply drive after her pen pal wrote that he did not have any markers, crayons, or notebooks.

She and her mother visited Penland’s class in August to discuss their efforts sending school supplies to the penpal’s reservation elementary school.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is encourage the Blackfoot children to stay in school and get a good education so they can get good jobs,” Cox said.

The Shepherd students are also designing custom discovery boxes and games for fourth and fifth grade students on the reservation that incorporate facts about West Virginia history, geography, and its environment. The future teachers will be placed in the same grade classrooms in the local area later this semester for their fieldwork.

One of the participating students, Alexandra Cherry, an elementary education senior from Martinsburg, said one of the most important traits that drives teachers is the need to help students, and that the school supplies will help foster the students’ interest in learning and will make a difference.

“I think this is the best part of being involved, helping others realize they are capable of anything theywant to do, and they are more than capable of helping others who are not asfortunate in some way, shape, or form,” she said.

Cherry’s mother is a local Girl Scout troop leader and her troops are joining in the effort, as well.

Penland said she hopes the connection between the Blackfoot Indians and the Shepherd community continues every semester.

“The education department at Shepherd is moving in a progressive, passionate, and compelling direction to bridge connections with all cultures, targeting those that are most underrepresented, with this being the Blackfoot Indians in Montana,” she said. “It’s reaching across the United States and saying, ‘We’re here to help.’ It bridges the gaps and makes the connections.”

The drive runs through the third week in October. For more information, contact Penland at or 304-876-5291.

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