Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Receives Grant for Education Initiative

Colorado Governor Jared Governor Polis announced Jan. 25 that a charter school initiative for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe will receive a grant from the Response, Innovation, and Student Equity (RISE) Fund.

“This pandemic has forced us to face unimaginable challenges. What we do with our schools not only impacts our students today but shapes the future of our state for future generations. We also know the pandemic doesn’t affect students equally,” said Polis during the announcement.

Keystone Policy Center has been working with Ute Mountain Ute leaders for nearly two years facilitating the planning process for a charter school on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation. Keystone brought together Tribal Elders and leaders, community partners from early childhood through higher education, and others involved in projects and activities supporting the Tribe’s youth as part the process.

“Today is a very blessed day for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. We received word that we were awarded the RISE grant from the State of Colorado from the office of Governor Polis. This is what a true government-to-government relationship should be through this partnership,” said Manuel Heart, chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, during the announcement.

Keystone will help lead a coalition of partners and stakeholders to implement a strategic plan that will bring a higher level of services that support both academic and cultural advancement for Ute Mountain Ute youth and the community at large. A central pillar of the plan is to integrate Ute arts, language, and culture into all levels of education and curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering, (Native) arts, and math (STEAM) to prepare children, youth, and families for the workplace of the future. The project, known as Growing Ute STEAM, aims to provide an innovative, student-focused model of learning and support for all students of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

“In the past, generations of our grandfathers and our parents, a lot of our students were taken away from our homes and they were taught to assimilate into the system,” said Heart. “I think while each one of us are also looking to streamline education to meet the needs of our future, we also want to include the past.”

The RISE Education fund was launched in Sep. 2020 to support high-needs school districts, charter schools, and public institutions of higher education to address the learning challenges related to the economic, social, and health impacts of COVID-19 in a manner that creates sustainable innovations that improve student learning, close equity gaps, and enhance operational efficiency for pre-K-12 through higher education. Specific areas of focus include providing new student-focused models of learning, dramatically rethinking the student experience for higher education, strengthening and formalizing linkages between P-12, higher education, and industry, and catalyzing innovations that can drive long-term impact after the life of the grant.