Greetings from an active St. Joseph’s Indian School!
It seems the campus has been invaded by all sorts of groups. The 8th grade graduates who are moving into the high school program are back and taking part in an orientation program to prepare them for next year. They are busy meeting their teachers at Chamberlain High, figuring the layout of the school and taking a peek into the Homes they’ll be joining this coming August when school starts up again. They’ll be on campus until June 10th.
Four of our High School Homes are open to accommodate the 36 students who are staying at St. Joseph’s for the summer. Nine of these students are signed up for Driver’s Education, which lasts for two weeks. Some students are working on campus at our Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center and as counselors for our Rising Eagle Day Camp. Others are busy tutoring students in the summer break home and helping with summer custodial work. A few are even working at local stores and car dealerships!
It’s been so nice to see many familiar faces around campus.
Hi, I’m Sarah and I’ve been at St. Joseph’s Indian School for 11 years.
And I’m Jennie; I’ve been at St. Joseph’s Indian School for 17 years.
We’d like to give you an inside look into one of the biggest days here at St. Joseph’s: 8th Grade Graduation. Continue reading to hear about our exciting day!
As the year comes to an end, the eighth graders become extremely excited, but also anxious. They are anticipating their eighth grade graduation and all of the banquets, ceremonies, and special gifts that go along with it. Along with all of these great things, there can also be some nervousness for our Native American students. It may be the students are envisioning their first day of high school at a new school, or they may still be unsure of where they want to go to high school. This is my seventh year of eighth grade graduation. One would think I would be used to this chaotic order of the end of the year… However, I too, as an adult, still get caught up in the excitement and anxiety.
St. Joseph’s does something special for our kids in these last few days. We offer them what we call our Eighth Grade Retreat, where all eighth graders spend some time together, along with a few staff, and discuss high school and the future. We reinforce what a wonderful time of their life they have ahead of them, but also that they may experience struggles along this way. We encourage these students and remind them that, during those times of trouble, they must remain confident in themselves, keep their faith in God strong, and also that they can lean on their St. Joseph’s family. We then give students special letters that have been written for them from the staff and faculty of St. Joseph’s. These letters are a surprise to the students. Sometimes the letters bring tears and sometimes they bring laughs, but most of all they offer the students support. They show someone here at St. Joseph’s will continue thinking of them even though they may not see the student as often.
The day continues on with a pizza lunch, where staff are invited to give their congratulations to the graduates and a trip to the movie theatre with their fellow eighth grade classmates. The day is full of emotion. I have asked students in the past what their favorite part of the day was. Most students respond with reading the letters. For me, this affirms the purpose of the retreat and most definitely the personal letters to the students. It validates the time spent doing them and most of all I go away feeling as though I have given the students my best. I’ve taught them Science, I’ve attempted to teach them social skills, but most important of all I’ve told them I care.
Then on Friday the big day is finally upon us! Students are with their families and friends in the morning getting dressed up, sharing breakfast and having pictures taken. They report to the chapel around 10:45 am for final instructions and line-up in preparation for the 11 am start. This is a fun time as the students are excited and nervous and are just enjoying the moment. Once the actual graduation begins there is some nervousness as they walk down the aisle in front of family, friends and staff. The students generally relax once every one is in and seated and the actual ceremony begins. The students participate by doing the prayers of petition, thanking our guest speaker and reading a friendship poem usually written by one of our eighth graders.
Their faces truly begin to beam when it is time to receive their eighth grade certificate. Again the nerves show a bit as they walk up in front of everyone and pose for a picture but the pride is evident. Next the Rose Ceremony, a favorite time for our students, begins. They are given two roses which they present to their families as a thank you for all of their support and love throughout the years. They also write thank you notes to family and staff that are delivered during this time as well. Then the most fun moment of all is the slide show. Each student is represented by baby pictures progressing through their eighth grade graduation picture and then they personally share their favorite memories in a short video clip. The students then proceed to the receiving line where everyone greats them with congratulations and good luck!!
Our students then officially begin their transition home and onto the next steps into their futures. This is a very bittersweet time for all of us who work with these students. We are so very proud and excited for each of them but a little saddened as we know we will need to let go as they move on.
It is truly our pleasure to be a part of these young lives and appreciate the families giving us the opportunity to Serve and Teach, Receive and Learn. Honestly, it’s the greatest gift in the world! 🙂
As I reflect back upon the 2011-2012 school year, it is difficult for me to believe the end of the school year is only two weeks away. It does not seem as though we have already gone through 38 weeks of school!
I know many of the students are counting down the days until their summer vacation arrives however, as a classroom teacher, I get a little down around this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my summer vacation just as much as the students, but I also miss the kids and wonder how they are all doing at their homes. I sometimes come out to St. Joseph’s campus during the summer and think to myself,
“Wow, it sure is boring here without all the students running around and chatting.”
Eighth-grade graduation is upon us. Some of our students will be attending our high school program, while other students have made alternative plans for their future. It is a time of excitement and pride, but also anxiety for both staff and students. As staff, we have known some of these students since they were in first grade. We have developed relationships, shared stories, shared laughter, had disagreements over rules or assignments, and sometimes even listened through our students’ tears.
Regardless of what our students have gone through in their lives, they can look back on their time at St. Joseph’s and realize they have grown, whether it be physically, emotionally, or simply that they are graduating from eighth grade. They have had many accomplishments; they have formed many bonds, both with adults and their classmates that will continue no matter where they choose to go in their lives. They should be proud of themselves, for they have made it. It may have been difficult, but they have fulfilled the requirements for their first eight years of schooling.
On May 25, there will be a chapel full of people watching as each student is handed their diploma and shares their favorite memories of being a student at St. Joseph’s. As I look forward to that day, I can’t help but smile. For I, too, have a feeling of accomplishment. I was given the wonderful opportunity of being a part of these students’ lives and I have helped them grow. I can only hope I’ve done my best because more than anything these children deserve the absolute best, as they are our future. The smiles on the graduates faces as they receive their diplomas is my motivation to continue on with my work here at St. Joseph’s, as I can see by both the piece of paper in their hands and the twinkles in their eyes that I have made a difference.
This difference would not be possible without the donations from our many generous benefactors. I want to take the time to thank you for your generosity and kindness over the 2011-2012 school year. Without you, none of this would be possible.
Though 8th grade graduation is still a half a year away, we gathered the 25 students who will walk up the aisle in May and took our formal, graduation picture clad in blue and gold robes. This will be a special group for me because I began working at St. Joseph’s when these students were first graders, and have so many memories of them growing up over the years. They hadn’t given to much thought to graduation, but were very excited thinking that it time will pass quickly approaching that celebration.
During supper at the Hogebach Home (high school girls), a couple of the young women shared about their after school jobs. Latoya just began work at the Nursing Home as a dietary aid. She serves meals to the elderly and enjoys the chance to visit and interact with the elders. And she is getting some good training along the way, in case she does decide to go into a health care profession.
Erika is helping in the development office. She phones donors to thank them for special donations, or sometimes makes calls just to wish them a Happy Birthday. Her supervisor says she is doing a great job, and people are particularly pleased to hear from and talk to one of our students here at St. Joseph’s Indian School.