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.
We held two competitive events on campus yesterday. The first began at 11:30, when several of our staff squared off in our annual chili/non-chili cooking contest. Three recipes gained a ribbon and bragging rights, but everyone on campus was a winner when we got to sample many tasty efforts. I had 11:30 mass, and by the time I reached the tables at noon the early lunch crowd had polished off the top three pots. But the others I sampled were hearty on a cold day and quite delicious. Human resources pulled out some colorful piñatas and recorded fiesta music set a fun tone. We laughed about the Kleenex on the table for runny noses and the bottles of antacids for those who found the samples to hot. It gave staff from different areas on campus the chance to mingle in a way that doesn’t happen often enough.
Then at 1:00 the real drama began as the top six spellers in each grade (determined by an earlier competition in their classrooms) participated in the annual Spelling Bee. Fr. Anthony and I were the word givers, and alternated between the grades. Some words I was glad when the students asked for a definition, because that enlightened me too! A few of the matches ended quickly. When it got down to the final two in 7th and 8th grade the rounds went on a long time. When one of the students had a chance to win, it seemed they would miss the second word and give their opponent another chance. The winners now advance to the regional competition in Mitchell.
I was at the Hogebach Home (high school girls’ home) last evening when the phone rang. Trinity answered the phone and once she hung up, broke into Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” What happened? – because of dangerous cold and wind chill, Chamberlain Public schools called for a 2 hour late start. Almost every high school kid I know would rejoice with a couple extra hours to sleep in. How cold was it? When the William Home (4th-5th) grade girls walked home from the Rec Center after swimming, their hair was frozen in the time it took to walk 2 blocks.
Since our kids live on campus, and the snow isn’t deep enough to cause problems, we pressed on with our regular school day today. Recess was indoors. When we get a long stretch of cold I notice the students getting cabin fever, but our weather has had enough ups and downs that they haven’t had to stay inside for more than a couple of days.
We’re working on budgets and had to submit our list of planned capital expenses for fiscal year 2014. Because our staff have so many good ideas for improvements, our wish list is always quite long. Then we have to prioritize and decide what we can afford, what our facilities crew has time to get done, and what is most pressing, especially where safety and preventative maintenance are concerned. Our costliest projects will be the next phase of our campus drainage upgrade, and the tuck pointing of several of our large older brick buildings. Perhaps the ones I’m happiest to see are the remodeling of the last two homes on our list, Afra (1st-3rd girls) and Raphael (1st– 3rd boys). I know the houseparents who live with the children in those two homes have been envious of the improvements we’ve made to all the other homes, and excitedly await similar upgrades and improvements.
I traveled to Lower Brule to join my fellow SCJs for lunch. I wanted to meet the two Sisters of Christian Charity, Anne Theresa and Marie Pauline, who just joined the pastoral team. Both have a lot of teaching and school administration experience. They are looking forward to a new ministry of focusing on the pastoral needs of the people on the Reservation.
Having done Indian reservation work myself for many years, I offered them two pieces of advice.
Be patient (with yourself and others)
Go visit (in people’s homes and in the community, so you understand both the struggles and the dreams)
Before I came home, I stopped at the Tribal Hall, and at the local convenience store/gas station. I ran into lots of St. Joseph’s alumni and families and caught up about how life is going now. When you live in a small town, a trip to the post office or store can take a couple of hours as you simply stop and pay attention to the people you know and meet along the way.
I was lazy, and had the high school students wash my car, but it was for a good cause. They had no classes today, and decided to have a fundraiser for trip next month to the Sioux Falls Arts Festival. They took lots of dirt, grime and bugs off many vehicles and raised $260.
When there are free days from school, our transition specialist will often invite groups on to campus to speak to our students about future plans. The National Guard came to our campus and spoke to five of our students who are considering become part of that service after they finish high school.
It was another hectic weekend here on campus at St. Joseph’s Indian School. Fr. Steve Huffstetter, SCJ and a group of students and staff were in Austin, Texas for a donor luncheon, which gives me the opportunity to bring you up-to-date on what’s happening here in central South Dakota.
We are still enjoying a mild winter. What snow we got a few weeks ago is fast disappearing, which means that the students are missing out on sledding. The rec center staff sponsored a “midnight” sled fest recently – they turned on the football field lights so the students could sled on the hillside next to the field – and you could hear the shouts of laughter and joy all over campus. Sunday morning started out with fog, but as it lifted the cold evening air had given all the trees a frosted look which sparkled as the sun came out on another beautiful day.
This past week saw some activity at the construction site of the addition to the Akta Lakota Museum. Large beams were floating through the air as they were lifted into place. One benefit of the mild weather is that it is giving the workers the opportunity to get a lot of work done.
On Friday three of our high school students, Christopher, Jatonne and Erica, along with their fellow cast mates took part in the 56th annual One-Act Play Festival in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Chamberlain High joined with 42 other high schools to perform before the judges and public. Each play has 45 minutes from set-up to take down. The Chamberlain High players performed “We wear the Mask” about some of the issues teens and young adults face. Chamberlain High received superior acting awards, a standing ovation, and much praise from the judges, other coaches and students for the courage to present such a hard-hitting message. On the hardwood court, the Chamberlain boys’ basketball team journeyed to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to take part in the Dakota Schoolers Border Classic against Corsica-Stickney and won. St. Joseph’s has three students on the team—Nick, Claye and Elijah. The team currently has an 11-3 record.
Saturday gave me a chance to see the energy of our Native American students in action. Many of our 6th, 7th and 8th graders are active in bowling. I followed the bus home from the lanes on Saturday after two hours of setting them up to knock them down. As the students poured out of the bus in front of their homes, many of the boys raced into their homes and were back out again heading to the gym for some basketball. They seemingly have energy to burn, which is why the rec center with its gym, workout room and pool is such a blessing – to give our students the opportunity to burn off the energy the Great Spirit has blessed them with.
Sunday brought the Super Bowl and our students and staff got caught up in all the excitement as many did around the country. Several homes hosted Super Bowl parties on campus and it was nice to see that the older homes invited some of the younger students to take part in the festivities. There was good food to munch on and various door prizes to be won during the game itself. I had the chance to attend one at Cyr Home where the 4th and 5th grade boys hosted some of the Benedictine Homes’ boys (1st through 3rd grades) and the one at Sheehy Home where the high school boys hosted the other high school homes along with 8th graders. It helps give them some insight into what the future might hold for those continue in our academic program. Everyone had a great time, although I’m not sure if everyone was happy at the results of the Giants beating the Patriots, but the G-men did seem to be the choice of many of the students.
The Girls’ Inter-city Basketball program had a good day of play on Sunday. They also had the chance this past Friday evening to have some fun as the inter-city players from Chamberlain were invited out to have a swim party with the young ladies from St. Joseph’s. It was a way to have fun and help the girls continue to get to know each other to build up teamwork and help prepare them for when they’ll be together in high school.
The boys’ basketball team, about half way through their season, will meet one of our arch rivals, Lower Brule, as our 5th and 6th grade teams go there today, and Lower Brule’s 7th and 8th grade teams come here to play. These games should help us get a handle on what sort of team we have as the young men prepare for the St. Joseph’s boys’ basketball tournament this coming Saturday. It will be especially interesting since Fr. Steve has two of our stars with him on the luncheon visit to Austin, and they will not be back until after game time.
Again thanks for your prayers and generous support. We pray for you each Sunday at Mass. This Sunday we had the blessing of the throats for any of the students and staff who wished to receive it as the feast of St. Blasé was this past Friday.
Have a great week and may the Great Spirit continue to bless and reward you.
I’m growing impatient with the waiting and am ready to get on with surgery, which is one week from today. The sooner the tumor is removed, the sooner I can allow for healing and let the recovery begin.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
At this point it has become harder to focus on work. I’m growing impatient with the waiting and am ready to get on with surgery, which is one week from today. The sooner the tumor is removed, the sooner I can allow for healing and let the recovery begin.
Today was a day full of meetings to sit through that helped me focus on the tasks at hand. The meetings also took on a festive air as staff are starting to celebrate my birthday a few weeks early since I’ll be in the hospital then.
At the morning management meeting we had some tasty muffins complete with a lit birthday candle and song. At the afternoon Child Services Team meeting Karla brought a pizza sized sugar cookie from the local bakery that we could all share.
If there is one thing we do well around St. Joseph’s, it’s taking time to celebrate.
Dr. Mitchell, Chamberlain’s public school superintendent, is moving on to another job next month. I dropped by the open house to wish well. I especially wanted to say thanks for how he’s collaborated with our St. Joseph’s staff and students over the years.
There are times we need special accommodations – like at parent-teacher conferences when a houseparent has to meet with the teachers of all ten of their kids! The superintendent has initiated some productive discussions on how to provide good transitions and experiences for our students.
The new superintendent worked at St. Joseph’s some years back, and then became the high school principal. Because Dr. Johnson also knows our students and programs well, we look forward to keeping that collaborative relationship strong.