Preparing for the school year during normal circumstances brings stress, and during a global pandemic, the season can be even more overwhelming. However, Citizen Potawatomi Nation Workforce Development & Social Services seeks to help Native American families and students in need with access to assistance, no matter the circumstances.
“We reached out to last year’s participants and asked them to talk us through their plans for back to school,” said Workforce Development & Social Services Youth Counselor Kym Coe.
From those conversations, the department decided to distribute all the school supplies on hand as well as provide $75 gift cards for school supply reimbursements. If students need more expensive supplies, such as a graphing calculator, Workforce may be able to assist on a case-by-case basis.
“There are some stipulations,” CPN Workforce Development & Social Services Assistant Director Margaret Zientek said. “And this is probably what’s going to hurt: they have to give us the receipts to be eligible for any other services in the future.”
Area schools and Workforce have noticed a sharp increase in the number of students opting for homeschool or virtual education for the 2020-2021 school year.
CPN Youth Counselor & Coordinator Michelle Ramirez said these numbers could increase more as schools evaluate and update procedures.
Since the pandemic began spreading across the country, a lack of technology and internet access amongst many clients makes learning through the web difficult.
Workforce looks at each situation and client individually to determine available services. Numerous families have qualified to receive aid paying for internet services, which removes some technological learning barriers for students. Staff have also helped families sign up for month-to-month plans and other affordable internet options.
Additionally, depending on need, the department has supplied computers and tablets. As funding for this support remains available, more students may qualify.
To be eligible for back-to-school assistance, clients must be members of a federally recognized tribe and attend school within CPN’s original jurisdiction. Students can also qualify if they are 14 and older and reside in Pottawatomie, Lincoln, Payne, Cleveland, Seminole or Oklahoma counties.
Workforce encourages anyone in need to fill out an application, and staff look forward to the chance to help make this school year as successful and stress free as possible.