Voices of Native Youth

Why You Shouldn’t Tell a Native Youth to Stay in School

Here's why one student thinks you shouldn't tell a Native youth to stay in school. Her reasons and solutions might surprise you. #nativeyouth #nativeamerican #educaiton #success #graduation #mentorship

Have you ever had someone tell you to stay in school? How did you feel? According  to a friend of mine, an adult told her to stay in school and it made her feel pressured. She had to push herself to work hard and improve her grades. When the adult told her to stay in school she felt that if she didn’t, she would be a failure.

Finishing school is great, but having the pressure put on you is too much. There are reasons why native youth don’t finish school. Some may have experienced abuse and some may have trouble keeping up with their education while caring for family members. Maybe other family members could help care for their younger siblings or grandparents then they could continue their education.

Native Youth need their education to succeed in the future. It really bothers me when middle-class white people tell me to stay in school. Especially when they don’t understand how education is on the Reservation, our personal problems, and the family responsibilities we have.

Reservation Schools

People don’t realize how hard it is to live on the Reservation and to get a good education. According to Rebecca Clarren in an article entitled “How America is Failing Native American Students says, “American Indian and Alaska Native students are more likely to be suspended then any other racial group, with the exception of African Americans.” If they are suspended they will miss out on some of their education. The longer the suspension, they more days they’ll miss. Suspension makes you feel hopeless and at risk because you are suspended and falling behind.

According to the same article, “The high levels of poverty on Native American Reservations do create barriers to educational success.” If the white people knew how hard it is to live on the Reservation, then they would understand. Instead of accusing us of not wanting to succeed, white people need to understand the reasons behind our behavior. Native Americans we are capable of proving wrong those who misunderstand our abilities to achieve.

Depression and Anxiety Create Barriers to Success

Most white people don’t understand how personal problems can keep Native youth from succeeding in the future. Thirty-nine percent of American Indians adolescent suffer from depression. According to Aisha Mays, MD UCSF Department of Family and Community Medicine, “A lot of teens don’t get help for the depression they have.” When teens don’t get help for their depression it can cause harm or lack of self-worth. They need support when going through depression

Jerald G. Bachman, Patrick M. O’Malley and M. Brent Donnellan in a study entitled Adolescent Self-Esteem state that, “self- esteem relates to demographic characteristics such as race/ethnicity and, to a lesser extent, gender, and age.” Of course race/ethnicity causes lack of self-worth because of how Native youth are being treated.

Nobody should be feeling overwhelmed due to their ethnicity and race. In other words, People need to realize that Native youth feel sensitive about their stories and speak to them in ways that don’t condescend or make them feel put down.

Native Youth Caregivers

Taking care of family members can effect a Native youth’s education. What many people don’t realize is that Native youth feel pressure from their families to help care for younger siblings or older relatives while the parents work.

Here's why one student thinks you shouldn't tell a Native youth to stay in school. Her reasons and solutions might surprise you. #nativeyouth #nativeamerican #educaiton #success #graduation #mentorship

According to an article from the American Psychological Association, “as many as 1.4 million U.S. children age 8 to 18 are caring for a parent, grandparent or sibling with a disability or illness.” The article goes on to say that “Many of these young caregivers are from low-income, single-parent households.” For instance, young caregivers want to remain in school, but caregiving affects their education.

When young caregivers are in school their ability to concentrate drops, their mood changes, and they want to drop-out to care for their siblings or parents. Young caregivers might not achieve their goals or have a career in the future. According to Connie Siskowski, RN, PhD, of the American Association of Caregiving Youth, in a 2006 poll funded by the Gates Foundation, 22 percent of young adults who dropped out of the school for personal reasons cited family caregiving as their primary motive.

Youth should have support from other family members so they can keep up with their education. For that reason, people need to realize that Native youth are putting their lives on hold to care for their siblings or grandparents. People shouldn’t assume that kids just drop out of school because they want to.

We’d Like to Succeed: Here’s What We Need

Native Youth find it difficult when white people tell us to stay in school when they don’t really know how hard life is for us. Some say Native Americans can’t succeed, but we can prove them wrong. It would help if instead of people telling us to ‘Stay in school,’ they would ask us ‘What can we do to help make it possible for you to stay in school?’

Instead of telling Native youth to 'Stay in school,' adults should ask, 'How can we help make it possible for you to stay in school?' #education #nativeyouth Click To Tweet

White people don’t understand we put our lives on hold for our siblings and grandparents because we have that connection with them. If white people understand what we go through every day then it would be easier for us.

Thalia loves to read and she hopes that her love of reading will help her when she finishes high school and studies to work in the medical field.

2 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Tell a Native Youth to Stay in School

  1. I had no idea this was a situation in our country. My heart goes out to Native Youth! And I sincerely hope Thalia gets to fulfill her dreams to finish high school and go on to work in the medical field. God bless you, girl! Your future is bright!

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