New staff are continuing their orientation, with everything from how to calm an out of control child to working our email system. One day they had a scavenger hunt to get acquainted with campus and start to find useful and needed things. I hope our new co-workers will feel welcome and an important part of the St. Joseph’s mission. Today the SCJs hosted them for lunch at our house.
As folks finished eating, I asked each person to introduce themselves with a short “job description” of their role. Present among us were houseparents and teachers, custodians, food service worker, an electrician and a bookkeeper. I asked folks who came from a distance how they heard about St. Joseph’s Indian School. Several were from families who supported us with donations, and through the mail have known about the school since they were little. Others saw an ad in their area newspaper, or found job information online. The people who grew up in the area were asked to share a favorite memory of St. Joseph’s Indian School. Two people whose parents worked here fondly remembered the family picnics we have for staff. One woman recalled her own elementary school days when she played basketball and volleyball against our kids. I trust the good spirit of camaraderie and sharing, the hope and enthusiasm they bring will enrich us all.
Fifteen of our staff sat in on a teleconference with a group of researchers. Child Trends conducted interviews with our students and their families and presented their findings. Overall the report was affirming. Like any organization, we look for ways to improve, and there were areas to look at in that light as well.
One area we need to review is our vast array of rules. Students grudgingly admit that the rules are overall a good thing that point them along the right path. Still, few of us really like so many rules. Just because we’ve always done something that way, it’s still worth a fresh look. Celia, one of our residential coordinators pointed out that we have a rule limiting student outgoing long distance calls to the weekend. That was put in place years ago partially because that was when calls were cheapest. Our phone services now costs the same per minute all the time. As we look at improving communication with families, that’s an example of a rule that probably needs to be revamped. While students also complain about homework and house chore rules, those are the kinds of things that we’ll undoubtedly keep in place.
18 of our students received First Holy Communion at mass today. Of that group, most had gone through a year of classes in the RCIC (Rite of Christian Initiation of Children). Twelve of those students were also baptized and confirmed and one made her profession of faith.
Our small daily chapel was set up for pictures. As families arrived, Aaron took some great snapshots for the students to have and for us to remember. One of our houseparents who works with our youngest girls, had to remind an excited child scampering down the hallway “Today is not a day for running.” A few minutes later, I saw Celesia and Kyla showing off their flowing white communion dresses, spinning around, like a fairy tale Cinderella at the ball. I heard the same houseparent caution again, “Girls, today is not a day for twirling!” But how could they help it with the joy and excitement?
Everyone looked so sharp dressed up. I felt a little guilty ruining the hair do’s that took so long to get right when I doused the students with water three times. Those who were baptized definitely got good and wet.
After mass families and students were invited over to the Dining Hall where staff prepared and served dinner. We also had a couple of beautifully decorated cakes wishing congratulations and blessings. When I witness and participate in sacramental celebrations, especially with children, I pray I can be a good example and deepen my own commitment to the Lord.
Hey, did you know that on Wednesday nights St. Joseph’s Indian School has a night of activities for the homes called “Enrichment Night?” That’s where we get two homes from each community, for two hours that night and either teach them a new game or revive an old game for fun. We work on teamwork and certain skills. We also have “Enrichment Swims” going on at the same time for different homes.
Most recently, at our 6:00 pm time slot, we had our 1st – 3rd grade homes (Raphael & Afra) for our Enrichment Night Activities. They played a game that some of you might know from TV, “Minute To Win It.” One game we played was call “Loner” which is when one person has to roll one marble at a time to knock down a pencil standing 15 feet away in one minute!
Savannah did a good job in the “Bite Me” game and Trinity and Jarrett were excellent in their games as well. Even the houseparents were involved in some of the games as well. Thanks to Aleece, Leonard and Christine and Mike for all their help. We also played, “Stack Attack” and “Movin’ On Up,” which are plastic cup games.
The 7:15 pm time slot was with the 6th – 8th grade homes (Rooney & Fisher) who were involved as well last night. They were involved in a different night of activities. We called them “Tag Games.” “Swatter Tag” was a big hit with Josh and Adrian and the game called “Dead Ant” was a smash with the boys as well. Jeremiah and William were really into the game “Frogger.” These are games that build teamwork and are fun at the same time. Thanks to houseparents Tony and Roman for their help.
Next week for Enrichment activities at 6:00pm, we will have the 4th and 5th grade homes (Cyr and Perky) and at 7:15pm we will have the 6th – 8th grade girl homes (Mathias & Stevens).
Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel hosted the Chamberlain Area Churches Choir as they graced the space by singing an uplifting Christmas Cantata. This is the third year the community has gathered for the event, which gets better attended each year as word spreads. The singing and Christmas story “The Love of God” certainly helped lift my spirits and place me more deeply in the Christmas spirit. Afterwards fellowship and Christmas goodies were shared in our skateroom. My only regret was that our Native American youth weren’t around to be able to share in such a lovely tradition.
It’s holiday time in the Carola Home. The boys have returned from eating turkey, dressing and other favorites with their families and now they are excitedly waiting to go home for the Christmas break. This weekend the homes are starting to decorate, putting up the trees, lights and ornaments. Although the homes have their Christmas dinner and party in January, we still discuss family traditions and holiday activities. One of our favorite things to do is look around town at the lights and decorations. Our homes tradition is to say, “Ooooh, aaaah” at the homes that are decorated.
What are some of your favorite traditions?
This can be a hard time of the year for our American Indian youth to be apart from their families and focus on school. Our boys are doing amazingly well. Keeping their missing assignments low and their grades up. Preparing for the end of the semester, finishing up projects and studying for final exams. It is very good to keep them busy to help the time fly by.
Winter activities help with this. A few of the boys went to the elementary Christmas concert and one of them showed his talent by taking pictures. One of our boys is a referee for the girls inter-city basketball program. Six of our boys are on the CHS basketball team and eight boys are in the St. Joseph’s high school bowling league. Also, two of our boys were chosen to go to Rapid City, South Dakota for an alumni gathering. They will be able to see friends who have graduated and be encouraged of their stories of success.
Of course, with all these activities and keeping up with their school work they have very little down time. So on the weekends when there are no scheduled events, they make the most of their free time. Watching a favorite sports game on tv, playing videos game or going to the movies at the local theatre.
It is a very exciting time of the year and there is much more to look forward to after the holidays. With our Christmas party, trip home and more.