Monday, December 12, 2016


Scarlett Day-Aleman is a Compact AmeriCorps VISTA member serving with Lame Deer public schools on the Northern Cheyenne Indian reservation in southeastern Montana. What started out for Scarlett as a summer AmeriCorps placement with The Boys and Girls Club of the Northern Cheyenne in Lame Deer has transitioned into a full-time position as a VISTA in the same community. Scarlett has excelled in her new role - building an after school program for the public schools, leveraging community volunteers to help with sustainable growth of the programs, and initiating a reading program for students to read to stray dogs to boost their confidence. She has also been instrumental in the success of a backpack foods program which recently received a $1000 Wal-Mart grant to continue the necessary funding of the program. Below, she explains the importance of receiving this grant and the impact the program has had for the kids, the community and herself.

Scarlett reading with a student in the Rescue Dogs Program
"The grant funds will be used to continue a weekend feeding program run by the Montana Foodbank Network called the BackPack Program. The BackPack program is an awesome program that helps alleviate chronic hunger in elementary aged students. Living on a reservation with a high percentage of people living at or below the poverty level, there is a great need for this program. It has been proven time and time again that kids cannot learn, or really even behave, while hungry because they are in survival mode. By giving them weekend food, the students are not as hungry come Monday morning. When they are not hungry, they are not in survival mode, this makes the whole day better and easier for everyone involved. 

One of the coolest things about the backpacks, from a school standpoint, is the fact that they come prepackaged. We don't have to worry about stuffing them or making sure everyone gets the same amount because the food bank does that for us! They also deliver straight to the school so I don't have to worry about how to transport 600 bags of food to the school every 6 weeks. It's also a very cheap program, with the bags only being 4 dollars a piece. That beats trying to buy food, transport it, and pack it ourselves. Another great thing is how discreet they can be. It's not a problem in Lame Deer since there's really no stigma in receiving help here, but I appreciate the fact that the food bags slip into backpacks with ease and could be easily camouflaged if kids were embarrassed to receive them.

I'm really excited to get this grant, and donation money from people back home, to continue this program. It is probably the most important thing I do here and I believe it leaves the biggest impact on the kids. There are also kids who rely on this program and are getting important nutrition from it. It has also proven to be a good way to get the older kids involved with service. Sixth graders and the special education kids love helping pack boxes and delivering them to the teachers. It's just great to see students helping fellow students out even if it's something as minimal as placing a plastic bag in a cardboard box. It helps inspire a sense of community that the kids would not get in any other way. It also gives me a reminder every week of why I do what I do.
Thank you Scarlett, for your continued mindful support of the Lame Deer community and especially its youth.