Scarsdale's Maggie Dunne, 23, is often in the news for the work she does on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, through Lakota Children's Enrichment, Inc (LCE), a nonprofit corporation she founded as a student at Scarsdale High School. Maggie graduated from Colgate University in May of 2013, and now works from headquarters located in pro bono offices provided by Doug Metz of the Scarsdale Agency.
LCE has gathered the support of local and international leaders and will be holding a celebration of Lakota Children this Fall in Greenwich, CT.
September 13, 2014, from 4-7 PM, LCE will hold its Inaugural Fundraiser at Westerleigh, the stone residence of Steven and Diana Steinman. All costs of this event have been underwritten by a donor to ensure that 100% of the money raised will go to LCE. The event will honor Nobel Peace Prize Winner Jody Williams and Scarsdale resident Brandon Steiner, both of whom support LCE's programs.
Brandon Steiner is the CEO of Steiner Sports, a leading sports memorabilia corporation. The Steiner family became interested in LCE and Pine Ridge when they hosted Keith Martinez in their home through Scarsdale's STEP Program, which provides an intensive academic enrichment program to talented students. Martinez graduated from Scarsdale High School and now is a Gates Millenium and Presidential Scholar at Villanova University. Martinez also serves as Chair of LCE's Youth Advisory Board.
Nobel Laureate Williams became involved with LCE when the two met Dunne at a conference last Fall. "The minute I heard Jody speak, I knew that I wanted to get her involved with LCE," said Dunne. A committed human rights activist who won the Peace Prize for her work in banning interpersonal land mines, Laureate Williams is an advocate for indigenous communities globally. Earlier this year, Williams joined Dunne and the LCE team on the Pine Ridge Reservation to celebrate the students' poems and entries.
Following the trip, Laureate Williams issued the following statement:
I recently had the opportunity to speak with student authors and others on Pine Ridge. The voices of Lakota youth clearly reflected their strength and dedication to protecting the land, the environment and Lakota culture.
All Americans should be educated about the history of failed promises and broken treaties that have contributed to the obstacles facing the Lakota and other first peoples. I look forward to my continued involvement in Lakota Children's Enrichment's movement to help support the empowerment of Lakota youth so they can work to develop and enrich the lives of their communities while they help change the way that Americans view injustices in this country.
When asked about Williams' participation, Dunne said "Jody immersed herself in our grassroots programs, and her quick sense of humor was a huge bonus. Jody met and congratulated each of the students on their work. She met with educators, Tribal Council and community members, visited sacred lands in the Badlands and the Stronghold, participated in a public radio interview, spoke at two Award Ceremonies and rolled up her sleeves as a working team member at a Youth Summit. Equally impressive but not surprising, Jody arrived on the Reservation with a remarkable understanding and depth of knowledge about the injustices and obstacles that are facing the Oglala Lakota Nation. Jody is an activist who wants to make the world a better place."
Dunne describes the Pine Ridge Reservation as the "Global South" of North America: it is located in three of the poorest counties in the USA; the Reservation-wide literacy rate is approximately the 5th grade reading level; drop-out rates at some schools exceed 60%; only one of every 100 students will graduate from college; and diabetes, suicide and rape are above the national averages.
"The real news on the Reservation is the youth," said Dunne. "The kids we work with are smart, committed to facing challenges without giving in to negative pressures, and they are achievers. We provide them with the kinds of opportunities that most Scarsdale children take for granted -- but are not available on Pine Ridge."
One of LCE's most successful programs is its annual Writing and Art Challenge. For the last two years this program has been supported, in part, by the Scarsdale Rotary Club, which funded grants for the schools of the Grand Prize winners in each school category. Dunne explained, "programs like these are important because they provide a platform for the voices of Lakota youth to be heard both inside and outside their community." LCE is in the process of publishing the voices of Lakota Youth in the online magazine, Medium.
"LCE challenges Americans to think differently about helping children in the USA, particularly those in rural areas like Pine Ridge, with a rich culture and complicated history" Dunne said, "We need to do better addressing the injustices inside our own country."
Tickets to the September 13 Inaugural Fundraiser in Greenwich CT, honoring Nobel Peace Prize Winner Jody Williams and Brandon Steiner can be purchased at LCE's Event Page. Space is limited, so if you want to attend it is best to purchase now! Local businesses interested in showing support by donating an auction item or placing an advertisement in the event journal will find details on the event page.