Blackfeet Expand Head Start on Campus

May 15th, 2001 | By | Category: 12-4: Colleges for the Community, Tribal College News
DOROTHY STILL SMOKING

Dorothy Still Smoking (known to the children as “Dr. Dot”) visits with David Andrew at the Head Start classroom on campus. Photo by Joe Fisher

Blackfeet Community College (BCC) in northwestern Montana has a track record of linking with the community to enhance existing services, and now the college is working closely with the Blackfeet Head Start Program. BCC President Dorothy Still Smoking, Ed.D., brought extensive experience in Head Start and early childhood program development when she became president in July 2000. She immediately saw the potential of bringing Head Start services to campus to serve the families of tribal college students. The Blackfeet Head Start has provided GED (General Education Diploma) services to its families for some time. Now GED instruction, testing, and preparation are conducted on the tribal college campus, averaging 30 students per day.

Last fall, a Head Start site was opened on campus for BCC students’ children. Through a partnership between the college and Head Start, the site provides a fulltime Blackfeet language instructor. Parents can learn the language with their children.

The college is one of several tribal colleges across the country that is providing degree programs for Head Start staff. Ten local staff members will earn Associate of Arts Degrees in Early Childhood Education. Five staff will also complete their bachelor’s degrees with an Early Childhood Education option at a four-year institution; BCC is completing articulation agreements now with Montana State University.

Most recently, the college has opened the Blackfeet Head Start child care program on campus for younger children. Many students need child care services in order to pursue their education, but the college could not afford to provide it until the U.S. Department of Education awarded a $10,000 grant last June for this purpose. The Head Start center can serve up to 17 Head Start children as well as 40 infants and toddlers.

This collaborative effort creates more community involvement, addresses student needs, and sets an example of how communities can maximize resources when funding is scarce, Still Smoking said. The staff includes Leona Skunkcap, a former Head Start Teacher Training Project director, and Wilma Madplume, who supervises within the college education department.

For 11 years before coming to the college, Still Smoking directed the Blackfeet Head Start Program, which is nationally known for its emphasis on language. She is the co-founder of the Peigan Institute, which started language immersion schools on the reservation. In 1994, she received the National Head Start Association’s Administrator of the Year Award.

BCC is one of the largest tribal colleges in the country, enrolling 400 students last winter. The Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges reaffirmed the college’s accreditation in December. For more information about the Head Start program, call the college at 406/ 338-5411.

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