In its ongoing efforts to serve youth in the areas surrounding tribal headquarters in Shawnee, Okla., the Citizen Potawatomi Nation has recently been approved expand an after school tutoring program for Native American youth.

According to Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA), approximately 28 percent of the 273 delinquent youth in Pottawatomie County were Native American. In the county’s two major cities, Shawnee and Tecumseh, 39 and 33 percent respectively of their delinquent populations were Native American. Delinquent youth are qualified as any minor in contact with the state’s Juvenile Justice System.

To combat the delinquency and dropout rates amongst local Native American youth, the FireLodge Tribal Youth Program has developed the Potawatomi Learning and Cultural Exchange (P.L.A.C.E.). The program will seek to fill the gap currently facing local Indian youth in Pottawatomie County, where aside from FireLodge Tribal Youth Program, no other structured after school tribal-specific programs exist for youth over the age of 12.

Specifically, it will serve 60 tribal youth for one hour a day, three times a week during the course of the 9-month school year. In addition, the program will also offer life and social skills classes as well as health and wellness activities to supplement the tutoring. The aim is to cut the dropout rate of Native American at Tecumseh and Shawnee public schools by 5 percent over the next academic year.

“There is a lack of academic assistance for Native youth once they get past the age of 12 in terms of local, after school programs,” said BJ Trousdale, Coordinator of the Tribal Youth Program. “We ran a trial program last year to get an idea of what we needed to address in terms of curriculum and focus. This year, with this grant, we are developing a set curriculum with academic tutors whose focus will be to assist Native American students in the surrounding areas.”

Parents and guardians will also have to actively participate in the program. Each nine weeks of the school year, they will provide FireLodge Youth Program with students’ academic records, which can also include attendance and behavior reports. They will also have to participate in semi-annual progress meetings with tutors to help track their student’s progress and look for areas that need attention. In incorporating parents, the program’s tutors will create long-term plans, known as “My Success Plans”, that establish students personal and academic goals.

The program will also serve at-risk students who are unable to travel to the on-site tutoring which will take place at the P.L.A.C.E. Gym near CPN headquarters immediately after school. Three tutors will serve high-risk youth, who have other after school activities, been expelled or face other learning challenges, at a designated location outside the normal youth club hours.

“By working around the schedules of students unable to get to the tutoring session at the gym, we want to show these high-risk students that we care about their success,” said Trousdale. “Sometimes just showing some positive action can provide them the motivation to stay with it.”

If you would like to learn more about FireLodge Youth Program’s tutoring program for the upcoming academic year, please contact BJ Trousdale To learn more about FireLodge Youth Program’s other activities and services, please visit