Jun 23, 2013 - By Andrea Novotny, Staff WriterParticipants in the Wind River Indian Reservation division of the Parent Training Leadership Initiative graduated from the 20-week program June 14, but their work is only beginning.
PLTI is a "project-based course" in which participants "design, develop, research and implement a community project that will have significance," said course facilitator Sergio A. Maldonado Sr.
Maldonado said the 20-week course focuses on "independence, freedom, family structure, parent/child relationships, discipline, education, relationships within the community and giving back to the community."
"It's about being of service, giving to the community," he said. "When we give back, we role model, not just for our children, but for the community."
PLTI is a national program offered in 13 states. The statewide graduation was June 15 in Cheyenne. This was the fourth year Wyoming has offered PLTI, but only the second year for the Wind River Indian Reservation division.
The course began as a four-hour weekly program, but by eliminating downtime, facilitators were able to condense it to three hours every week over the second 10-week period.
Ten students graduated from the Wind River Indian Reservation this year: Kristie Bercier, Elsie Charging Crow, Ruth Frericks, Anne Howell, Shania Howell, Jolene Hubbard, Taryn Jim, Leslie Spoonhunter, Robbie Whitehair and Sandy Whitehair.
Their projects focus on a wide range of issues, many with anticipated timeframes of a few years, and some that are expected to become ongoing programs.
Bercier's project, "Playing with your Child," is "geared to improving parenting skills" by teaching parents "how to increase their involvement by providing connection activity with the parent and child." Bercier is a special education teacher at Region 14 Child Development Services. She has already gotten permission from Region 14 CDS to hold classes in a kindergarten classroom next fall.
Bercier said she knew she wanted to do something to promote good parenting skills, and that play is "an instrumental part in developmental stages of a child," that "helps them express feelings appropriately."
Charging Crow created a project called "Updating Fire Numbers." While driving around on the Wind River Indian Reservation in search of project ideas, she noticed an alarming number of homes, and even a school, with no fire numbers.
"If the numbers are missing or incorrect, it can delay the time of emergency service arrival," she said.
Charging Crow realized early on in the project how extensive the endeavor would be.
"A couple of times I wanted to step down," she said. "But I think anyone who had this thought would have to continue with it. You could save your own family, an elder who still has stories to tell, or a future leader --a child is a future leader."
Charging Crow has spoken with various services and organizations to get assistance and has presented her project to probation officers to offer as a community service opportunity. The Wind River Unity Program has said it will help her find the numbers. She also intends to speak with radio stations and newspapers to raise awareness of the importance of fire numbers.
Robert Whitehair created "Goats in the Past" to "show kids how to be independent in the mountains."
When Whitehair lived in Canada, he, his godfather and seven other men took city children on a trip to teach them to live in the wilderness.
"These kids were 'the toughest of the tough,'" he said. "And it turned a lot of kids around. Fifteen of the 18 on the trip graduated from college."
Whitehair wanted to create a similar program in Wyoming. This program will take children, ages 10 to 18, into the mountains with goats. He has spoken with goat packer Charlie Wilson and has set up dates and locations and will take the goats on two trial runs this summer.
"Goats form companionships," Whitehair said. "They keep everybody together. Even if you're a human, the goats make you part of their group."
Whitehair hopes to make this an annual event.
Recruiting efforts for the next PLTI classes will begin in the fall. Maldonado said he hopes they can expand the course to be more inclusive to tribal members all over the reservation, especially members of the Eastern Shoshone tribe, because there were no Shoshone participants enrolled in this year's class.
One plan for accomplishing this involves moving the course to several locations around the reservation.
Funding comes out of the Wyoming Department of Health, but program leaders said they would like to see the program eventually become self-sustaining.
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