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Endangered Lakota Youth: Pine Ridge Reservation

My Awesome Foundation Project is to increase the $1,000 grant fourfold within six months by utilizing an established Native American credit union savings program for Pine Ridge Reservation and then distribute the proceeds to seven Lakota teens to fund housing, college tuition, or a business start-up.

Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota lacks a sustainable economic infrastructure for employment and growth. The possibility of Lakota youth finding employment on the reservation to support themselves, build a future, start a business, or pay for college is extremely limited. These bleak prospects are additional factors for the destruction of the Lakota family unit by increasing the number of school drop-outs, gang memberships, alcohol and substance abuse cases, and teenage suicides, the latter being 150% higher than the national average.

I want to change this by providing seven (7) Oglala Sioux teens (14-17 year olds) with six (6) months of minimum deposits ($25 per month) for a Youth Individual Development Account (IDA) at Lakota Funds in Kyle, South Dakota. Lakota Funds will match these deposits $3 for every $1 with certain requirements and restrictions. Youth IDA Program participants can deposit up to $720, and Lakota Funds will deposit up to $2,160, for a grand total of $2,880 to be used for asset-specific purchases, i.e. paying for college, starting a business, or buying a home. After the deposit of the first $150, the chosen Youth IDA participants will be responsible for obtaining the rest of the proceeds needed to maximize the fund.

The successful implementation of this Awesome Project may be the impetus for collaboration between individuals (separately or through “crowd funding”), corporations, and/ or foundations for additional teen sponsorships via Lakota Funds. The draw would be in the fact that every $1 invested in the Pine Ridge Reservation community would actually mean $4 going out to individual Lakota teens with a message of hope and support.

Photos courtesy of Jonathan Hamner and ONE Spirit

Funded by Awesome Without Borders (July 2013)