Students at Grand View School have piled up some awards lately.
The choir recently traveled to the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair in Norman and won a pair of first-place awards, and Grand View continues to enjoy success in Native art competitions. It was the only school in the Cherokee Nation to win a Johnson-O'Malley Exemplary School award this year.
Teachers and administrators believe grant assistance allows more opportunities for students to develop their talents and learn about their American Indian identities.
"Here at Grand View, about 75 percent of our students are Native American," said Glenda Sellers, parent and community liaison. "We have Indian education programs and activities throughout the school. We receive JOM [Johnson-O'Malley] funds, NYCP [Native Youth Community Projects] grants, Title III language grants."
Grant-funded programs frequently extend beyond regular school hours. Teacher Tiffanie Keys stays after school as an art instructor.
"I'm working with JOM students doing art projects," Keys said. "Those students compete in JOM and Cherokee Nation contests. We've entered works in the International JOM and the Cherokee Art Market."
Keys said media include beadwork, basket-weaving, pastels, markers and colored pencil art.
"In the JOM contest at the beginning of the year, our students finished first and second across almost every category," she said. "In contests, we often sweep - meaning we finish first through third in every category. In the Cherokee County Art Show, our seventh- and eighth-grade students finished one, two and three. We are rocking and rolling in art."
Darlene Littledeer teaches Cherokee language and choir at Grand View.
"At the Native American Language Fair, we won first place in the traditional category with 'I'll Fly Away,'" Littledeer said. "We also won first in the modern category with - I almost said it in Cherokee - 'We Are Family.'"
Littledeer said the students trained all year long with a lot of new faces in the group. Grand View is only in its second year of indigenous language competition.
"But when they all got on stage and started singing, a few of the kids in the back were swaying back and forth, and everyone in the crowd was moving right along with them," she said. "They did really well, and I am very proud of how they performed and how they have come along with their language skills."
Sellers said the grants allow Grand View to provide a wider array of offerings in cultural education. Students will soon participate in Cherokee Heritage Day and art exhibitions.
"They will participate in other challenge and language bowls with the Cherokee Nation and Johnson-O'Malley," Sellers said. "The cultural activities learned - some students don't know they are Indian and later find out. They learn about traditional foods, clothing, arts an crafts - things our ancestors had that we want to teach our children so they know who they are, where they are, and where they are going."