Skip to Content

Rapid City student program to receive NEA Human and Civil Rights Award

WASHINGTON - June 23, 2011 -

A group of students from a Rapid City, S.D. summer initiative will be among honorees at the National Education Association’s (NEA) annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Banquet, Friday, July 1, 2011, in Chicago.  Students from the Solutions Class, which is part of the Learn and Serve program, will receive NEA’s SuAnne Big Crow Award, acknowledging their work in helping address the dropout rate in their local community.

“These high school students in South Dakota are proof that motivated and committed young people can provide real solutions to improve their schools,” said Dennis Van Roekel, NEA president. “As adults, we should make sure we are listening to what they have to say.”

Solutions Class Program Coordinator Jackie Swanson worked with students to tackle the drop-out rate among local Native American students. Within four short weeks, the students identified the problem, researched possible solutions, and transformed their research into action.

The students reached inside their native community and talked with tribal elders, family members, fellow students and drop-outs. Based on their conversations and learnings, students worked to enlighten school officials, city administrators, judges, and other community leaders about the issues that cause young Native Americans to leave school.

The team started a dropout “hotline” to help students who wanted to return to school. They created ads encouraging students to stay in school, and they raised the needed funds to mount the ads on billboards and on public buses throughout the city. The students also presented awareness-raising sessions for local business leaders.

The Solutions program was considered such a success that it was offered in three additional Rapid City high schools in the fall of 2010.

SuAnne Big Crow (1974–1992) was an American Indian student from Pine Ridge, S.D. An outstanding athlete, student leader and role model, she spent her school years working to give her peers on the reservation a greater sense of self-worth and dignity. SuAnne Big Crow died in a car accident at the age of 17.

For more information, visit:
Follow us on twitter at

# # #

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Dana Dossett  (202) 822-7823,