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Red Lake Elementary School Archery Program empowers youth

Just over 21 years ago Red Lake Elementary School physical education teacher Denise Houle saw a niece competing in the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP®) in another school district and brought the idea to the Red Lake School District. Red Lake Elementary School Special Education Teacher Scott Hanson started to coach in the program a year after it started and has been directly involved ever since.

According to the NASP website: "The NASP® is an in-school program aimed at improving educational performance among students. And through it, students are learning focus, self-control, discipline, patience, and the life lessons required to be successful in the classroom and in life." The NASP® is a part of the State of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Shooting Sports Program, with support from the Red Lake School District.

The Red Lake Elementary School Archery Team includes fourth and fifth grade students. The program started its third decade last school year and recently completed its 21st season. Denise Houle and Scott Hanson have coached over 1600 archers during this time.

Deanna Pemberton's daughter Elieah participated in the program this past season. Deanna said, "I think the archery program is an awesome program to introduce athletes to sports other than basketball, softball, volleyball, baseball, and golf. Archery improves their hand and eye coordination as well as patience."

"I like the competitive portion of archery," said Elieah. "I play a lot of basketball, which is a fast sport and archery gives me the chance to participate in a calm sport. I like going to the archery competitions with my archery friends who are different ones from my basketball team."

"Elieah Pemberton placed second in the girls division this year," said Scott Hanson. "She is a high competitor and had lots of success this season."

The team went on the road this past season and competed at Hawley, Grand Rapids, Mt. Iron Buhl and final state competitions have been in Duluth, St. Cloud and Bemidji.

"The Red Lake Elementary School Archery team has been very successful since its inception," said Hanson. "We have averaged 80 archers per year over the past 21 years and have had opportunities to compete at the State and National level. Our archers have seen accomplishments in their archery competitions, and in the classrooms."

Stephanie Amberg is the Red Lake Elementary School Principal for grades third-fifth. She said the Red Lake School District focuses on three pillars for their students including Ojibwe language, community and culture, Social-emotional learning, and Rigorous academics.

"Having an archery program at Red Lake Elementary encompasses all three of these pillars," said Amberg. "There is a long history of archery among the Anishinaabe culture. I am proud of our school staff for bringing it here and our coaches for their long-term dedication to the program."

Amberg added, "Archery is a sport that teaches many lifelong skills that also align with our social-emotional learning pillar. They learn focus, discipline, patience, and control over their emotions. They learn to listen to their coaches, respect their fellow archers, and archers from other schools. Our coaches build relationships with our students that carries through to their success throughout the school day."

"Our coaches also embed academics into the archery program," said Amberg. "Not only does it fulfill physical education standards but also mathematics and science. Students learn to keep score as well as the way the arrows fly to make the best shots."

"The Red Lake Elementary School Archery has changed many students over the past 20 years I have coached it," said Hanson. "I have seen archers come out of their shell by being part of a team, and at the same time individually. Students have grown confidence in themselves, taught them discipline, and concentration."

"I have seen many archers' frowns turn to smiles, and slouching turn to walking proud. Coaching archery has given me many rewards throughout the years. The positive rewards are that archers gain from the sport and has changed many lives, and that makes me honored to be their coach. We have won a couple of tournaments, competed in NASP nationals, and have gained popularity in our Red Lake community," added Hanson.

Houle and Hanson have coached two generations of archers over the past two decades. They said they have lots of fun with all the students they have coached over the years and continue to change their students' lives.

To learn more about the NASP, see their website online at:  https://www.naspschools.org/what-is-nasp.

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