Group of schools receive suicide prevention grant

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Brandon Burke, far right, met with Tribal Council and members of schools Thursday, Nov. 1 in regards to a grant for suicide prevention. (Ashley Fox/Lake County Leader)

When one door closes, another opens.

That can be said for a group of schools on the Flathead Indian Reservation after they have begun to receive funding to focus on students and mentorship.

Brandon Burke, who oversees the student suicide prevention grant with Tribal Health, explained that two entities that normally utilize the grant opted out early, leaving about $100,000 to be dispersed.

“What am I going to do with all this money? Where do I even start?” Burke said, recalling his first thoughts.

He knew that he wanted to help schools, giving students more opportunities for interaction after school as the winter months hang around.

Among various goals for the after school programming, suicide prevention will be integrated throughout the schools, as highlighted by Burke.

Program staff will promote suicide prevention and intervention messages to the community and students throughout the remainder of the school year, as well, along with suicide prevention activities for youths.

Initially Burke wanted to make sure every school on the reservation benefitted, but he was allowed four school districts with limited resources.

Dixon, N’kwsum, Hot Springs and Two Eagle River High School will each receive $30,000 between now and June 30, 2019, with very few strings attached to the deal, Burke said.

According to a memorandum of agreement between the Condfederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and each of the schools, there is a monthly budget of up to $3,333 dollars. Each school is not to exceed $30,000.

All the schools have to do is keep track of spending and turn the information to Burke, he said. “It’s just real simple.”

At first, Burke said when he found out that the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to be spent, he went to Tribal Council to see if breaking the grant up among different schools could be done.

Immediately, council members supported his idea.

Ultimately, Burke said he would like to see mentoring programs in each district come to fruition over the six months.

His goal, he said, is to help older students, juniors and seniors, mentor youngsters.

“Kids are always different with upperclassmen,” Burke said, adding that younger students are more eager to learn from their mentors.

Each school is doing something completely different.

For example, Burke said that the Dixon school district is trying to work on bringing Charlo students on board to help with mentoring.

Hot Springs is working on a community garden and a local radio station.

In Arlee, N’kwsum is putting focus on improving cultural tools for its curriculum. Burke explained that an after school program would be difficult, as the students come from around the reservation, sometimes having hours-long busrides home.

Two Eagle River High School in Pablo is looking to improve school mentoring support as well as hosting evening programming and community/family dinners.

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