Every year, approximately 200 students live and learn on the campus of St. Joseph’s Indian School. We clothe them, supply them with virtually limitless educational resources, and nourish their bodies with healthy foods and their souls with teachings of Lakota culture and a faith in Jesus Christ.
Those are basic needs every child receives. However, each student arrives with specific needs, too. Rarely is there a common baseline to which we can measure success equally from child to child. Some students have behavioral obstacles to overcome. Some have health factors needing immediate attention. While others arrive fairly healthy and educated.
The impact of St. Joseph’s for each of these students will look different. The level of success will look different.
But no matter where a child may fall in that spectrum, we begin where all things start — the beginning. Their beginning. We begin by planting seeds, supplying tools and giving hope and encouragement that they can become something great because all that greatness already lives inside of them. They just have to recognize it for it to burst forth.
And they do.
Take Lily, an alumna of St. Joseph’s. Her family enrolled her at St. Joseph’s her freshman year of high school, and she stayed until she graduated in 2017. She’s now a student at a prestigious college studying astrophysics. She has a love for languages, and even studied Japanese for two years. She can carry on conversations about quantum states.
She shines so brightly.
“No matter how hard things get, I just keep going. There’s been some obstacles, but I know there are resources to help me,” Lily said.
St. Joseph’s is one of those resources. Of course, while a high school student, St. Joseph’s provided care to help Lily grow into a strong young woman. But even after her path took her elsewhere, we remain a part of her thiyóšpaye — extended family.
St. Joseph’s transition specialist checks in monthly — and sometimes weekly — to make sure Lily is doing alright. And not always in a formal way, but on a personal level, too. Being a young adult comes with so many challenges and decisions to make. St. Joseph’s helps support and guide Lily in whatever form that looks like specific to her.
St. Joseph’s alumni coordinator also makes sure Lily takes advantage of scholarship opportunities, as well. In doing so, it’s helped her receive several scholarships to help her pay for things like tuition, books, rent — whatever immediate needs she has. In fact, last year she was one of many Native American students who received scholarships, as St. Joseph’s was able to award over $191,000 to hardworking students pursuing higher education.
And thankful is an understatement to how Lily feels about St. Joseph’s.
“I was thinking about high school the other day and it really made me really miss St. Joseph’s,” said Lily. “Being at St. Joseph’s provided me with so many opportunities. Where I lived before, it was a 30-minute drive to school, and my family members were unable to take me to school events, activities. At St. Joseph’s, I could be in clubs and all the extra things.”
She also credits St. Joseph’s for helping her fall in love with learning.
“St. Joseph’s always stresses academics, but in an interesting way,” said Lily. “Of course everyone knows you should try to get good grades. But with St. Joseph’s, they have different ways to promote it that make it feel less like a lot of work because there were incentives for good grades.”
Those extra incentives might have been the reason as a teenager that Lily took part in after-school tutoring and such, but all that learning led to a deeper desire to do just that — learn. Now, it’s not incentives that fuel Lily’s desire to learn. That desire is now rooted in her (you saw us mention her love for conversations about quantum states, right?).
St. Joseph’s may do the planting. We tend the soil. We foster growth. But, the support from generous people from around the world are the reason we can do any of those wonderful things for Lily and the countless other children who walk through our doors.
Philámayaye — thank you — for supporting St. Joseph’s Indian School.