FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) – At Foothill Elementary, a school in the Sierra Unified School District, students are taught about Native American nutrition.

“We really would like for the students to understand that we are surrounded by nutrition in our local plants and food that we prepare,” said Jamie Smith, an advocate for the American Program Advocate.

Students are learning about acorns, how to crack them, leech them and prepare them.

“Acorn is packed with so many nutrients and poly that actually prevent diseases.”

Jamie Smith is the Native American Program advocate at Foothill Elementary. She helped organize the project as a way to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

“Our district is trying to be a lot more culturally responsive and by doing that we are enabling all native and non-native students to share this experience so they can understand the culture a little better,” said Smith.

The Sierra Unified School District has a large number of Native American students. Three nearby rancherias feed into the district, and there is an effort to incorporate that history into the curriculum.

“So now we are working with the Native American program and the junior high in high school to really develop a long-term picture of bringing that to life,” said Foothill Elementary Principal Danielle Amundsen.

The district is also continuing its efforts to improve the academic outcomes of the native students and increase the numbers who go on to college.

Their celebration of Native American Heritage Month also included attending the Native American youth conference held at Fresno State.

“The conference is about giving the students the opportunity, access to higher education, exposure to higher education,” explained Amber Esquivel, an outreach counselor at Fresno State.

Esquivel knows what is it like to be a first-generation college student. She feels that early exposure, just getting these kids on campus can make a difference.  It did for 11-year-old Kennley Terry.

“It’s really nice because I’ve always wanted to come here for college and I really am excited to keep my education up so I can come here to college.”