Meet Our New Director of Leadership and Culture! – Dawn Marie Johnson, MSW

Dawn Marie has devoted her life to helping others discover their own strengths. Growing up in a small town on the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation, she experienced a community that took pride in its people, even with limited resources. Rallying around those who deserve support and celebrating those who experience success has been part of her outreach strategies to build a better tomorrow for all those around her.

Dawn Marie is a highly active leader in the Sioux Falls community. In 2022, she was appointed as a Commission on Human Relations member. Since 2021, she has served on the Bridging the Gap Community Foundation, SFSD Indian Education Parent Committee, and graduated from the Leaders of Tomorrow leadership training.

Part of Dawn Marie’s mission is to connect her and her community to Indigenous roots and history. In 2020, she was awarded the Dreamstarter Grant through Running Strong for American Indian Youth. She has offered traditional practices to her students and connected local elders to youth through this. Prior to this opportunity, Dawn Marie hosted several successful community events that featured local and national Indigenous artists, leaders, and entities.

Dawn Marie spent the last ten years supporting school and after school organizations through her power of collaboration and partnerships. As an afterschool director, she was awarded National Afterschool Association’s Next Generation of Leaders in 2019 and recognized for her community work and professionalism by the University of South Dakota’s 30 Under 30 Alumni Award the same year. She graduated with her Masters in Social Work from the University of South Dakota in 2020 and contributes much of her success to striving to set a positive example for her eight year old daughter, Rhayn Marie Villanueva Medrano.

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The South Dakota Afterschool Network works to better our state and its communities by connecting providers, parents and policymakers with proven tools and resources to increase the quality of and access to out-of-school time programming for K-12 children and youth.

Afterschool is a lifeline that keeps youth safe, helps kids learn and grow, and provides parents the ability to work without worry. While South Dakota is home to more than 300 afterschool programs, the demand for programs exceeds available spaces. In fact, 1 in 3 South Dakota children (34 percent) who are not in an afterschool program would be enrolled if it were available. That’s more than 42,000 children who are missing out on opportunities to participate in programming that supports their development academically, socially and economically.

Afterschool can provide valuable opportunities for students to explore STEM, and we are here to help your program succeed in STEM Learning! From webinars and trainings to our signature TMC Trailers that bring turnkey STEM activities to your doorstep, our diverse collection of resources meets you and your students where you are and provides the support you need to deliver quality programming to your students at any age. 

The South Dakota Afterschool Network wanted to create a mapping tool to better understand the landscape of afterschool and summer programs available for children and families. From the initial launch of the new mapping tool, we have identified some startling findings.