The school has made considerable progress in the two years since it opened. Last year's daily attendance was up—to 92 percent from 70 percent the previous year—and 48 percent of students passed a placement exam making them eligible to take college-level English, up from 4 percent. Wiki also takes pride in the changes she has seen in students like Van Mechelen, who's contemplating a career in politics—"maybe national politics," he says with a smile.
"It's something you always hear about the schools on Indian lands, that we could do it better if we were in charge," says Wiki. "And as a matter of fact, we can."
Katherine Ellison is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author. Her most recent book is The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter, published by Basic Books.