Shepherd Education Students Help Indian Reservation Students

Shepherd students in the education department have taken on the task of a school supply drive for young students on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana.

The students are collecting school supplies to send to the reservation. Some students are also putting together games and puzzles involving facts and history about West Virginia to send along with the supplies. These efforts will serve to increase their awareness of another culture as well.

Dr. Jennifer Penland, assistant professor of education and indigenous scholar with Shepherd University, posed this project to her PED II students as part of their social studies professional development project for EDUC 354. The students were “excited and embraced the idea with enthusiasm,” says Penland. This issue was brought to the attention of Penland by Holly Stover, a sixth grader at Boonsboro Middle School who has a penpal on the reservation. The penpal informed Holly that she and her fellow students were lacking school supplies for class.

Dr. Penland is in her second year with the education department. She has been involved in working with cultural populations and creating an awareness of them and their contributions to society as a whole. She was brought to Shepherd to develop cultural connections with tribal populations as per her dissertation research. Dr. Penland has also created a film on the Appalachian American Indians of West Virginia. She is also working on another film with a research-funded grant. This work is what attracted Holly to confront Dr. Penland with this problem.

Even students outside of the department feel that this program is well suited for Shepherd University. “This is a really cool idea,” says English major and former education department student Diana Everhart about the program. “I hope it continues with future classes so that even more children on the reservation will benefit from this project.”

Future teachers are also excited about this project and the effect it will have on the children and the Shepherd students involved. Elementary education student Katie Ware thinks that this is a fantastic program for all the right reasons: “A teacher’s ultimate goal is the success of their students. This project aims to help the student’s school experience be more enjoyable in the hopes that they will stay in school and hopefully become successful in life later on.”

Dr. Penland is very excited about this project and hopefully the project continues in later classes. For information about the school supply drive, which runs through the third week of October, contact Penland at

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