The Native American Community Academy (NACA) in Albuquerque, NM is a magnificent example of culturally sustaining pedagogy in action. The school was founded with community support and collective understandings of the critical need for personal wellness, cultural identity, and academic preparation in the education opportunities for Native students.
NACA implements a holistic approach to education through integrated college-prep content that includes Indigenous Studies, storytelling, oral traditions, cultural history, four Native language offerings, community presentations, service learning, and Native literature. The program is carefully attuned to the needs of NACA’s predominantly Native American student body, with an approach that includes staff collaboration, community involvement, curriculum writing, field testing, revision, and in-service teacher training.
Ninety-four percent of the students in this charter school serving grades 6-12 are Native American or of mixed Native heritage, although students of all ethnic and racial backgrounds are welcome. Seventy-five percent of NACA students have parents who have never attended college, yet 100 percent of the past four graduating classes have been accepted into a college program.
All NACA students are expected to complete two AP classes and two dual-credit courses prior to graduation. The school’s graduation rate at 72% is not high, but this is 18 points higher than the rate for Native students in the surrounding district.
NACA’s College Engagement Team works with all students with the expectation that they will graduate and meet their post-secondary education goals. The Team supports students with test preparation, financial aid, college entrance, and scholarship and applications.
The school’s vision is to graduate students who are academically and emotionally prepared for college; confident in their cultural identities; physically, emotionally, and spiritually well; and ready to take on roles as leaders in their communities. NACA is unique in its use of language, culture, health, and college preparation as effective tools for Native student engagement and achievement.
After hearing stories about how this school has been a beacon of belonging for students near Albuquerque and is growing a movement through the NACA Inspired Schools Network, we proudly recognize NACA as a national School of Opportunity model for its remarkable contributions to Indigenous education.