Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has put strains on Cherokee families, the economy in northeast Oklahoma and our local public schools. There is no clear end in sight, but we remain diligent in creating ways to serve our people in spite of these hurdles. With that in mind, we recently launched online applications for Cherokee Nation’s Respond, Recover and Rebuild Education Initiative. Under this program, we have earmarked $40 million for relief to Cherokee students and families.
The coming academic year will be unlike any other in history as we rapidly transition to virtual education, and many families will need help adapting to the new educational landscape. The Respond, Recover and Rebuild Education Initiative is designed to help Cherokee families across the nation cope with disruptions to education caused by the pandemic.
A $400 technology grant is available for every Cherokee citizen ages 5 to 18. Families can use these relief dollars for things like improved Wi-Fi or computer equipment that may be required for distance learning. There is no income restriction for this stipend. There is also no residence requirement. While most of our programs are limited to within Cherokee Nation’s 14-county reservation, we know the COVID-19 crisis does not recognize boundaries. So this technology grant is available to tribal citizens both inside and outside the Cherokee Nation.
In addition, school clothing grants of $300 for low-income applicants and $150 for all other applicants are available. These grants will help make sure every Cherokee Nation citizen ages 5 to 18 who resides inside the reservation boundaries can afford new clothes and a winter coat. The funding is about double the amount the tribe has previously given out to help low-income students buy clothes.
For both the technology grants and the clothing grants, students in any type of education system are eligible—public school, private school or home school.
The more than 5,000 college students across the country on a Cherokee Nation scholarship will also have access to additional funds. They will automatically receive a $750 technology grant. We hope that providing our fall 2020 scholarship recipients with additional dollars will help them stay on track to a college degree during this difficult time.
Besides this direct support to students, we are offering a new $10,000 grant opportunity for the 107 public school districts across Cherokee Nation. This grant is directly connected to education technology, health and safety projects. Cherokee Nation’s Education Services Department will work directly with school districts regarding these grants. Cherokee Nation also plans to hire student advocates to identify learning obstacles related to truancy and technology barriers.
I have said throughout this struggle that my top priority is Cherokee Nation’s safety, health and well-being. None of this would be possible without our successful effort to bring federal COVID-19 funds to Cherokee Nation and the support of our Tribal Council. Federal dollars and our tribal government’s commitment to helping our people are making a difference with COVID-19 response and recovery.
Families can apply for this assistance now through our online portal at www.cherokee.org under the Respond, Recover and Rebuild Education Initiative tab. Eligibility requirements, an FAQ section and more can be found on the website, and applications are due by Aug. 7.
Chuck Hoskin Jr.