News from the Health Center

After a little holiday vacation, the health center is back in the swing of things at St. Joseph’s Indian School!

We’ve seen plenty children with strep throat and, to make things more exciting, influenza A has hit!  Sound terrible doesn’t it?  It really hasn’t been that bad.

We’ve only had about 6 or 8 students with the flu since coming back from Christmas break.  All the Lakota children have had a flu shot, so this helps slow the epidemic.

Of course, when the children are sick they don’t go to school. Instead, they come to the health center for the day (sometimes in their pajamas) and hang out with the nurses!

We love to give them special treatment while they are with us: their own room, a small TV to watch, a comfy bed, and let’s not forget a delicious bowl of chicken noodle soup and crackers for lunch.  Does soup get boring? Maybe, but it’s great incentive to get well faster. *smile*

At 3 pm, when the school day is nearly over and houseparents return to the homes, we pack up the little sweethearts (with a mask if necessary) and off they go to their home with instructions on what sort of care they need that evening.

Have a Wonderful Day!

Nurse Nancy & Nurse Ronda

Returning to campus after a donor event

We’ve just returned from our Sarasota donor luncheon trip. After walking along the beach barefooted and enjoying supper at a an outdoor sidewalk café, coming home to -5 degrees and scraping snow and ice off the windshield was quite a shock to the system!

Why couldn’t I get any sympathy from the staff who were here all along facing the frigid wintry blast?

To make matters worse, a semi truck slid into an electrical pole and knocked out power for an hour Sunday night. At St. Joseph’s, we have a fuel-powered backup generator, and were able to keep key areas of campus warm until the power company got things squared away. In the winter, I say regular prayers for those who work in the cold to keep us safe and warm.

There was a big crowd in the gym last night for fourth, fifth and sixth grade boys basketball games against Chamberlain. When we have three games like that, the other Lakota children come and go for supper, homework and other activities, but everyone stops by for a few quarters to cheer the teams on.

It was also the debut of St. Joseph’s cheerleading squad. They added spirited encouragement and got the stands more involved. Their new pom poms added to their look, and they wildly waved them at exciting moments throughout the night.

All the games were very close, with Chamberlain winning the first two and our St. Joseph’s students prevailing in the nightcap. In a few years, many of these boys will be competing alongside each other instead of against one another, and we work hard to build good sportsmanship.

While I missed the weekend performances of the high school’s one act play, I did get home in time to enjoy their last dress rehearsal before they took it to Pierre for the regional competition. There they received a first place rating, and will continue on to the state competition.


I’m glad and proud when our Native American students have opportunities to participate in arts activities.

After being gone from campus for a few days, I made the rounds to different departments and checked on how things are going around campus. The warehouse was stacked with bales of cardboard and shredded paper ready to be trucked off for recycling. While we actually earn a few dollars over the course of the year for doing so, the big benefit is that it doesn’t just go to the landfill as garbage, but can be reused and we help do our part for the environment. That was one of the goals of our last strategic plan.

For our current plan, we’re holding more listening meetings with staff again this week. It’s been time consuming; over two weeks I’ve met with 15 different small groups for an hour each. But we’ve heard good ideas and answered questions as we try to move forward with improving student achievement and success, and a host of other goals.

Over and over again, I appreciated how committed and passionate our staff is about trying to improve in every area on campus.

We had a farewell for Amy K, who is leaving her job in the mail processing room to go back to school. It’s always sad when part of our community moves on, but I’m happy when people take the chance to improve their education and set themselves up for better opportunities. We wish her all the best!

Christmas with the Lakota children

Girls in the Dennis Home received dolls for Christmas.
The Lakota children were excited to receive gifts from their wish list.

While most people took their Christmas decorations down long ago, today was our big day to celebrate with the Lakota students at St. Joseph’s Indian School. At liturgy, one of our fifth grade classes volunteered to act out the Nativity Story.  The cast included the Holy Family, Magi, Kings and even a Star to help it come more alive. We try to encourage (exhort, plead!) students to fully participate each Sunday by singing with some gusto. Because our songs today were all well-known and loved Christmas classics, it was not a problem.

After mass, students returned to their homes for a family-like Christmas celebration that included opening the presents that our donors so generously provided. Our kids received a good mix of fun items, toys and games, and clothing they need for school or sports. I was able to spend a little time in each of our homes.

William (4th-5th grade girls) – I was invited to pass out presents, and see the smiles as the girls saw colorful winter hats and fuzzy animal slippers.

Rooney (6th–8th grade boys) – A giant Christmas stocking held the presents as each boy dug deep for presents like footballs and basketballs.

Speyer (6th-8th grade boys) – The boys sat in a circle around the Christmas tree as Sue, their houseparent,  gave them instructions on keeping track of gift tags so they would be able to properly thank those who sent them gifts.

Matthias (6th – 8th grade girls) – The girls were opening their presents one at a time, while houseparent Daniel took lots of pictures. They were most excited about clothing and lotions.

Stevens (6th– 8th grade girls) – Presents were all opened by the time I arrived. One of our athletes was so excited with a new volleyball she received, that she talked her roommate into going outside to practice – and the temperature was a chilly 9 degrees!

Pinger (6th– 8th grade girls) – These girls were also finished by the time I stopped by. The girls were doing their homework and getting ready for Monday classes. They were already wearing some of the sweatshirts they’d received.

Fisher (6th– 8th grade boys) – One smaller present the boys all received in their stockings was a wooden paddle with rubber ball and string attached. Carol and Dick, their houseparents, were organizing a competition to see who could keep theirs going the longest.

Cyr (4th-5th grade boys) – The boys had the contents of their stockings laid on the kitchen counter before them. They were most fascinated by the plastic pencil sharpeners and were all busy trying them out on a pile of pencils, and capping the end of with Angry Bird erasers. To create atmosphere, the TV screen carried a video of a roaring fireplace.

Perky (4th and 5th grade boys) – These boys opened part of their presents and were preparing to eat. They had attractive platters of cookies and other goodies that Wendy, their houseparent, had helped them create.

Summerlee (4th and 5th grade girls) – The girls took turns showing me their mood rings and asking me to guess what it said about how they were feeling. I also had to answer quiz book challenges about presidents and the states. They were very excited about roller blades they received and had plans to break them in later in the afternoon.

Afra (1st-3rd grade girls) – The girls were gathered around the dining room table with houseparent Luisa, who was teaching them how to paint Christmas cookies with different colored frosting. Some looked like works of art (but not too good to be spared eventual eating).

Raphael (1st-3rd grade boys) – The boys were enamored with the play action figures of wrestlers, and were staging bouts with sound effects all across the playroom.

Ambrose (1st-3rd grade boys) – The boys received legos and a few mechanical toys with “some assembly required”– if they could only concentrate that well on their schoolwork, they would receive many scholarships!

Dennis – (1st-3rd grade girls) – These young ladies were engaged in introducing their new dolls to one another.

Crane (HS girls) – Our older students are mostly into music and many had scooted off to their rooms to play new CD’s. While I was there, a call came from the upstairs boys’ home asking them to tone it down a little!

The Lakota children thank you for your generosity!
Girls from the Crane home say pilamayathank you – for the Christmas gifts!

Giles (HS boys) – The guys received a set of drums as a big group present. I came across them running around campus looking for clues in a scavenger hunt as to where to find it.

Carola (HS boys) – This home was quiet as many of the guys were watching NFL playoffs or getting in a weekend nap.

Hogebach (HS girls) – Besides individual presents, these ladies showed off some of their home presents when I stopped in – a new waffle maker and other kitchen supplies.

Sheehy (HS boys) – These guys are into sports and music, and showed off some new jerseys, balls and posters they received.

Some homes had sit-down meals, others had fancy snacks and finger foods to share as different staff members stopped by to share in the festivities. While each home had their own unique traditions of celebrating, it was a festive and fun day all around.

Staff who love their jobs

I got an email from one of our new houseparents:

“Dear Father Steve,

I am working the Carola Home and just received a call from a donor.  It was a little awkward at first but turned out to be a good one.  He asked if this was St. Joseph’s Indian School.  I said yes and asked how I could help him.  He just started sending money to the Lakota children and wanted to check to see if it was the real deal.  I told him yes, in fact, I was a houseparent, that I loved my job and that it was a wonderful program.  I told him that it was the weekend, but if he called on Monday, he would have a better chance of speaking with someone that could put his mind at ease.  He said that he just wanted to make sure that his money was going to a real and good cause. I am not sure how donations work, but I think that if you were able to follow up with him he would feel better. . .”

It’s great to have staff that love their jobs, which makes it so much easier to tell people about the programs we have.  Of course, I also complimented her on making a donor feel appreciated and part of something worthwhile.