Officials with the local school district say they will use a federal American Indian Demonstration Grant to offer academic and cultural support as well as career planning to its Native American students.

The grant is for about $800,000 a year for four years, said Steve Godla, Del Norte County Unified School District’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. According to Godla, the district partnered with the Yurok Tribe to obtain the grant. The tribe also received an American Indian Demonstration Grant to offer similar services to Yurok students in Humboldt County, Godla said.

Del Norte County Unified School District staff were notified that it had received the grant on Friday, according to Godla.

“Ours is focused on providing more services to our native kids,” he said Monday. “We’re going to be able to hire five or six staff members that will work for the district and work with our students on providing academic support, helping them to career plan and provide some cultural support also.”

The grant will pay for five full-time staff at district schools, according to Godla. The grant will also provide funding to the Yurok Tribe for a program coordinator who will work with tribal communities within the school district, he said.

The American Indian Demonstration Grant will also pay for a half-time career intern, Godla said. It will also provide tribal youth with paid internships as well as field trips to colleges and cultural sites, he said.

According to Godla, the district’s grant will enable it to do a lot of things “we’ve been talking about.” This includes setting money aside for tribal representatives to provide training to teachers, staff and students at district schools, he said. Grant money will also go to the Yurok and Tolowa tribes to provide professional development for teachers, he said.

Godla said the most immediate need is to hire the six additional classified staff members. He said the new projects and services will likely be implemented in the spring.

“It’s really exciting,” Godla said. “I really do believe that students that are more in touch with their cultural heritage will end up doing better in school because they’re showing concern and (are) caring about something and they’re showing pride and I think it carries over.”

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