Vocational Grant that Benefits Disabled Native Americans

By: Meredith Boardman

The education department is offering a grant called “Vocational Rehabilitation Service Projects for American Indians with Disabilities.”  The grant is offered to nine tribes in Oklahoma, which provides grants for about fifty Native American tribal members with disabilities.

The grant “provides assessment, counseling, tuition, college expenses, training and job placement.” However, members of the program have said that “the most valuable outcomes are building relationships of trust and instilling a sense of confidence, responsibility and self-sufficiency.” The grant allows participants to partner with other tribes, local colleges, and the community to develop a specialized plan to support the disabled individual continue their pursuit of being back in the employment field. Members of the community who have partnered with these individuals continue to check in with the disabled Native Americans to ensure they are progressing with their vocation. One of the highest achieving participants in the program earned a Juris Doctorate and went on to become the attorney for the tribal council. This is the perfect example of what these disabled Native Americans are capable of achieving with this grant program.

The grant was written by Bryan Sykes. He worked in the rehabilitation field for over 28 years. He strongly believed that federal funding was necessary to get the program off the ground and to keep disabled Native Americans from suffering in poverty. Sykes was motivated to pursue this grant because he worked with several people who the government wrote off as “mentally incompetent.” Sykes sought a way to help these people who seemed to be at a point of no hope. These individuals seemed to be headed to no job at all, or a dead end job. Sykes was determined to find a way to turn these individuals lives around by gathering funding for the grant so these disabled Native Americans could pursue an actual career. This grant is also encouraging younger disabled individuals to seek vocational training early on so that they have more time to develop their employment skills and master a career. The grant is permitting younger individuals to overcome their disabilities and realize their potential.

Hopefully this grant continues to be funded so more disabled Native Americans can have vocational training and successful careers.


Helen Littlejohn, American Indians with Disabilities Benefit from ED Grant (Jan. 4, 2012), http://blog.ed.gov/2012/01/american-indians-with-disabilities-benefit-from-ed-grant/.

29 U.S.C.S. § 741 (2015).

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