Copyright 2009 Spirit of Sunka Wakan 
“To foster, promote, and inspire self-knowledge, perspective and empathy in
students so they can accomplish their academic and life goals."
Mission Statement
Earn High School Credit in Applied Psychology
      assisted by a horse and the outdoors
Through horse activities, creative expression and
body movement, this youth empowerment program
addresses academic and emotional aspects of
teenagers who would benefit from developing a
personal mission statement.
The Spirit of Sunkan Wakan is designed to increase
effective leadership and communication skills while
enhancing teenagers’ motivation to fulfill their short
and long term goals- beyond the classroom.
Medical experts regularly point out the importance of mental health and its effect on physical
health and patients’ accomplishments and happiness.   According to the Surgeon General of
the United States , “Mental health is a state of successful performances of mental function,
resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to
adapt to change and to cope with adversity.”  If individuals agree with the Surgeon General’s
statement, then they would make the logical assumption that mental health should be
addressed in school.  Without adequate coping skills or abilities students are hard-pressed to
meet even the standards of basic subjects like reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Carla Hannaford, Ph.D., biologist, and educator, in her book, Awakening the Child Heart, 
discussed a study about employer expectations by the National Learning Foundation. 
Corporations want an “… agile workforce made of flexible, curious/creative, cooperative
collaborators, who are altruistically motivated, aesthetically aware, reflective in their thinking,
ambiguity tolerant and risk-takers.  These are all traits that can only exist in a safe environment
that empowers us to be authentically ourselves. Literacy, numeracy, and communication are
still necessary, but only in context of these other characteristics (p.145).”  If educators want to
allow students to develop their individual talents and become the kind of people corporations
desire to employ, they will have to provide an environment in which character development and
collaborative skills are emphasized and nurtured.  The Spirit of SunkaWakan Youth
Empowerment Summer Program addresses these needs in addition to offering high school
social studies credit.  Please verify with your high school counseling department that they are
able to accept credit earned through a vendor of Family Partnership Charter School.
According to Richard Louv in his popular book, Last Child in the Woods-Saving Our Children
from Nature-Deficit Disorder:
“Children need nature for the health development of their senses, and, therefore for
learning and creativity.  This need is revealed in two ways:  by an examination of what
happens to the senses of the young when they loose connection with nature; and by
witnessing the sensory magic that occurs when young people-even those beyond
childhood-are exposed to
even the smallest direct experience of a nature setting.”
The Anchorage School District has stated:
“When schools systematically attend to students’ social and
emotional skills, the academic achievement of children
increases, the incidence of problem behaviors decreases, and
the quality of relationships surrounding each child improves. 
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through
which we learn to recognize and manage emotions, care about
others, make good decisions, behave ethically and responsibly,
develop positive relationships, and avoid negative behaviors. 
It is the process through which students enhance their ability
to integrate thinking, feeling, and behaving in order to achieve important life goals.”
Some “lucky learners” have developed a high degree of self-knowledge, perspective and
empathy, while many other learners have minimal amounts of self-knowledge, perspective, and
empathy.  The Anchorage School District has an interest in developing these abilities.  For
students to get to true understanding of core ideas in their academic classes, these skill areas
need to be directly addressed.  The Spirit of Sunka Wakan Youth Empowerment Program, the
Anchorage School District Social and Emotional Learning Committee have a common goal, to
help develop the introspective skills needed to move beyond rote recall to using knowledge
and experience in a continued search in life-long learning.  A learner might need a little
guidance to help unearth this skill, but it is in each and every one of us.  First, learners must
apply “Know thyself” as the great philosophers of the world advocated over 2000 years ago.
In addition, Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky, teachers for over two decades at John F.
Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Leadership on the Line-Staying Alive
through the Dangers of Leading:
“By making the lives of people around
you better, leadership provides meaning in life. It
creates purpose.  We believe that every human being has something unique to offer, and that a
larger sense of purpose comes from using that gift to help your organizations, families, or
communities thrive.”
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