Great Plains Coalition of Native American Boys & Girls Clubs Launched
Irene Folstrom selected to serve as Chief Development Officer
BEMIDJI, MN – After almost three years of organizing and strategizing, the Great Plains Coalition of Native American Boys & Girls Clubs is moving along quickly to pursue its Mission and Vision with the hire of Irene Folstrom as the Chief Development Officer for the coalition.
Ms. Folstrom holds a law degree from Cornell University and a B.A. in American Studies with Honors from Stanford University. She spent several years working in Washington D.C. with the National Congress of American Indians and other non-profit organizations before launching a State Senate campaign in Minnesota. She is a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and mother to two sons, Victor and Maxwell.
Karen White Horse, the Coalition’s President said, "The Great Plains Coalition is excited to announce that Irene Folstrom has joined us in our efforts to achieve sustainability. Irene Folstrom will spearhead our Coalition Clubs' quest to become more sustainable for our youth. She brings the background, experience and energy necessary to carry out the mission and objectives of the Coalition. We anticipate many positive results because of her leadership and ability to organize individuals into a collective movement that will see progressive outcomes."
“It is an honor to do this work on behalf of such a committed group of organizations and staff. I have come full circle in my career. When I moved home from college, I had the opportunity to help start the Leech Lake Area Boys & Girls Clubs when it was only a concept. Who knew many years later I would be blessed with this opportunity to help keep the Boys & Girls Club movement in Indian country alive," said Folstrom.
The Great Plains Coalition of Native American Boys & Girls Clubs are member organizations of Boys & Girls Clubs of America and represents 15 Native American organizations, comprising of 42 Clubs that serve Native American
youth in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
The Coalition’s primary focus is raising unrestricted funds to continue providing a safe place with positive role models and programs that help Native American youth succeed in school, learn new skills, and make positive life choices. Annually the Coalition Clubs have a unique opportunity to engage over 5,000 Native American youth in programs that will enrich their lives and shape their futures.
However, due to the dependency on federal funds many of the Great Plains Clubs are closing at alarming rates. Specifically, the Clubs are unable to continue functioning because they do not have unrestricted funding to pay
for basic necessities that are not included in their limited discretionary grants such as audits, supplies, supplemental youth program staff and utility bills. Recently within the Great Plains region, fifteen Club sites and two entire organizations have closed due to the lack of sustainability. This number of closures in such a short amount of time is unprecedented. Many more Clubs are close to closing their doors to Native American youth because of the funding shortfalls. It is in stark contrast to the large number of Club openings and success stories from only a decade ago in Indian Country.
The formation of the Great Plains Coalition is in response to an education, healthy lifestyle and character and leadership crisis involving the youth of our region. At least half of all Native American youth drop out of high
school and are more likely to experience poverty, poor health and incarceration as a result within our coalition boundries. Approximately HALF of all Native American youth are overweight or obese, thus setting them up for diabetes, heart disease and other preventable illnesses. Additionally, Native American youth suffer the highest rate of suicide of any population in the country. The average suicide rate for Native American teens is 3.5 times the national average. In the past decade, numerous suicide clusters have arisen in Indian Country, reaching epidemic levels of up to ten times the national average in far too many tribal communities.
Chairman Tex Hall said, “The Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Nation is honored to be designated as the first business and financial agent for the newly organized Great Plains Coalition of Native American Boys & Girls Clubs. This is the first organization to unite Indian County Boys & Girls Clubs on a regional level and we are honored to be part of this historic moment. The benefits to our children and youth from this worthy organization are already significant. Our youth are the future leaders of our people and we need to provide a worthy outlet for them. I also congratulate and welcome Irene Folstrom on her appointment as Chief Development Officer for the Coalition
and look forward to working with her.”
The vision of the Great Plains Coalition of Native American Boys & Girls Clubs is to ensure all Boys & Girls Clubs that serve Native American youth in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota have the tools
and resources to provide quality before school, afterschool, summer and year-round opportunities for all school-age youth to successfully learn, develop and contribute. The Coalition’s Mission is “to enable all young
people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”