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Home > Projects > Project Challenge

Transition Projects for American Indian Youth

Project Challenge: Preparing Rural American Indian High School Students for Successful Transition to Postsecondary Education


Project Challenge is a comprehensive and collaborative model designed to support the successful transition from high school to college and careers of American Indian (Anishinaabe) high school youth from Red Lake, Minnesota. Project Challenge assists Red Lake students in meeting and achieving the challenging academic results and school completion expectations of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in a manner that is consistent with tribal traditions, languages, and culture as stated in the 2004 Indian Education Executive Order.

The overall purpose of this project is to:

  1. increase student participation and academic achievement in math, science, and other challenging courses
  2. promote school engagement;
  3. enhance retention and transition skill development; and
  4. address the future goal orientation of rural high school American Indian students.

The project represents a partnership that includes the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, Red Lake Tribal College, Red Lake Independent School District #38, the University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration (ICI), and Voyageur Outward Bound School.

Project Challenge focuses on the 2005 entering ninth grade cohort at the Red Lake High School. Project staff work extensively with this cohort throughout their four years of high school.

Project Challenge strategies and interventions are designed to:

  • Increase skills of math and science staff to integrate cognitive guided instruction (CGI), ethnomath, and indigenous science concepts into curriculum content;
  • Integrate American Indian cultural components into the daily school culture of the project participants;
  • Provide assessment and feedback throughout program delivery to measure the effectiveness of activities in relationship to postsecondary readiness and choice;
  • Employ culturally competent, experientially-based strategies to motivate American Indian youth to engage in math and science curriculum;
  • Integrate approaches of service-learning and experiential education into rigorous academic preparation in math and science;
  • Incorporate transition strategies from other fields of study for the transition planning of American Indian high school youth; and;
  • Promote early access to postsecondary education by students’ participation in the College in the Schools Program.

Project Highlights Summer 2006

Red Lake high school students participated in several programs over the summer focusing on transition skill development, math, and science activities from a cultural and experiential learning perspective. Students attended a five-day transition development program in June called “Jump Start.” The key resource used in this training was the “Expanding the Circle: Respecting the Past; Preparing for the Future” (ETC) curriculum. Elders, community members, American Indian college representatives, and businesspeople supported the transition activities throughout the week. The following schedule of the five-day summer program may be useful as a model for summer program development using the ETC curriculum. Download the Jump Start five-day training schedule (in MS Word).

Red Lake high school students also participated in the eight-day National Youth Leadership Training in Sandstone, Minnesota in July and an eight-day outdoor experiential math and science learning skill development program with Outward Bound Wilderness in August.

In August students also participated in Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) training side-by-side with high school teachers from Red Lake. Red Lake teachers participated in training to create math and science lessons with a more experiential learning and indigenous focus. High school students participated in a portion of the training so that instructors could model the techniques to Red Lake teachers. The training called Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) is described in the syllabus used for the summer teacher training. For more information on CGI download the CGI syllabus (in MS Word) or contact Dr. Judith Hankes at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh: e-mail address:

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