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Home > Projects > Outreach to Empower

Transition Projects for American Indian Youth

Outreach to Empower: An Evidence-Based Approach to Promote the Successful Transition of American Indian Youth to Adult Life


ETC's Dennis Olson with a group of American Indian youth

Outreach to Empower is a collaborative effort between the University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration (ICI), the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC), and four American Indian education programs: Carlton Public Schools Indian Education Program, Minneapolis Public Schools Indian Education Program, Osseo Area Schools Indian Education Program, and Eci’ Nompa Woonspe’ Charter School. These schools represent a rural school district bordering a large Ojibwe reservation, an inner city school, a suburban school district, and an American Indian charter school bordering a Dakota community in Southern Minnesota.

The overall purpose of this project is to increase the school engagement and retention, motivation, social development, academic achievement, and future goal orientation of American Indian students with disabilities and those at risk using the following strategies:

  • The Expanding the Circle: Respecting the Past; Preparing for the Future curriculum, a nationally reviewed and locally evaluated curriculum focused on American Indian students’ academic development, school retention, social behavior and development, career goal orientation, and access to postsecondary education (Ness & Huisken, 2002).
  • Leadership development through service learning. NYLC has devoted 20 years in designing and evaluating the effectiveness of specific youth leadership instruments and programs including the use of service-learning as a means of promoting students achievement, leadership skills, school engagement and retention, and future goals orientation toward careers (Cairn, 2003; DesMarais, 2001; Jensen, 1999).

To further replication, implementation, and adoption of these strategies and approaches, project staff continually evaluates the utility and effectiveness of the technical assistance, training, and consultation strategies used with the service-learning and youth leadership approaches and strategies and the Expanding the Circle curriculum. This evaluation is essential to promote future replication of these practices in other educational settings nationally.

Project Partners

Project Highlights

Outreach to Empower students completed a presentation on leadership skills and transition planning at the Minnesota Johnson O'Malley Conference in April 2004. Students from the Outreach to Empower sites also attended the National Youth Leadership Council's National youth Leadership Training (NYLT), a summer camp experience where they developed their abilities to lead and serve in their own communities while interacting with diverse students from around the country.

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