St. Joseph’s Graduates – giving back

St. Joseph’s graduates can apply for scholarships to help them further their education.
Shay graduated from St. Joseph’s High School Program in 2011.

We have been looking toward the future of the high school program, both short and long term, and thinking about what our Lakota students need to succeed. Of course, we have a lot of thoughts, ideas, and opinions on that, but we decided to go to the source: our graduates.

We were fortunate enough to round up three former students; Roz graduated in 2008, Stefen in 2009 and Shay in 2011. We met over dinner to catch up, and they had a lot to share with us!

Much praise was given to Pam, our Transition Specialist. She works with St. Joseph’s high school students on independent living skills and life after high school. All the kids agreed that, thanks to their work with Pam, they knew what to wear to an interview and how to fill out a job application, among many other things. They also suggested that we spend more time doing mock interviews with the kids to give them more experience in that area.

St. Joseph’s High School Program helps 50 Native American students each year.
Stefen graduated from St. Joseph’s High School Program in 2009.

Each of the graduates also agreed they were very glad that skills like how to answer the phone and “no technology” meal times were enforced. Roz said that in every job she’s had, her supervisors have complimented her phone skills. Stefen concurred.

After noting another table in the restaurant where several teenagers had their phones out and weren’t participating in their table conversation, Stefen said he liked that his houseparents didn’t allow any phones at the dinner table, “because that was our time together as a family.”

The graduates also talked about how some things just have to be learned the hard way.

They’ve all had their challenges since graduating St. Joseph’s, but each of them have plans for their future and are moving forward. They also agreed they are glad they attended St. Joseph’s Indian School.

St. Joseph’s graduates often return to share their experiences with the Lakota children.
Roz graduated from St. Joseph’s High School Program in 2008.

Roz said, “If I could tell the current students just one thing it would be this, in capital letters: BE GRATEFUL.”

She went on to say that life is hard. Sometimes when you’re surrounded by so many opportunities, and all of your basic needs – food, shelter, and clothing – are taken care of, it can be easy to start to expect those things. However, once you leave St. Joseph’s, you’re quickly reminded that those good things in life are not a given.

Roz has accepted our invitation to come and talk with our current high school students. We are thankful that she is willing to share her wisdom with the kids and believe it will make a positive impact on them.

Do you remember leaving “home” and discovering that things were different than you thought they would be?

Learning about poetry with Linea

The older Lakota students enjoy reading to younger children on Dr. Seuss’ birthday.
My sixth grade reading students reading to a fourth grader.

Another quarter is coming to an end at St. Joseph’s Indian School; the year is going by fast!  In my reading classes, we have wrapped up the units on nonfiction and have ventured in to the world of poetry.

It is a nice change for the Lakota students because they are introduced to not only serious poetry, but also poetry that lets them enter fantasy land.  They learn about the different elements of poetry including imagery, metaphors, similes, rhyme, rhythm, repetition, and alliteration.

The forms of poetry they are introduced to are narrative poems, free verse poems, and concrete poems.  We are hoping that they will be able to relate the themes expressed in these poems to their own lives and to the world around them.

On Friday, March 1, we celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday.  This is always a fun day for the students, especially the younger ones.  The students are allowed to wear PJ’s to school and we set aside a time in the afternoon for the older students to get together with the younger students and read Dr. Seuss books to them.   My reading class looks forward to this especially if they have a younger sibling.

Linea – 6-8 Grade Reading Teacher

Do you have a favorite Dr. Seuss book?

Friday, St. Joseph’s Indian School celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday by a special reading time at the end of the school day. If they wanted to, the Lakota students got to wear pajamas to school. Older students paired up with younger ones, brothers and sisters together where possible, sat on the hallway floor, and read from the vast library of Theodore Geisel’s well-known children’s books.

Fr. Steve joined the Lakota (Sioux) boys and girls to read Dr. Seuss books.
Fr. Steve’s wild pajamas got a few laughs from the Lakota children!

I drew a few laughs with the wild PJ outfit I pulled out of the closet. We talk about being a ‘fool for Christ’ and sometimes you just have to get silly and have fun with the kids. I was reading with Caden for a while, who is a sharp student, but he just wasn’t getting into the books. I tried to get him to read with more animation and fun, so each of us took turns with a page, trying to be more excited and dramatic. He has a bit of ham in him, and he finally got going with the rhyming and tongue in cheek humor that makes those books so memorable. My favorite is Green Eggs and Ham.

Do you have a favorite Dr. Seuss book?

A beautiful moment for the community

At the end of the school day, we handed out attendance and honor roll awards to recognize St. Joseph’s students for their efforts during second quarter and first semester.

I cried at least a couple of times during tonight’s Chamberlain High School boys basketball game, but they were happy and sentimental tears. This was the last home game of the season, and senior night. All of the JV and Varsity players were introduced and went into the stands to give their parents a rose. The seniors were given special honor and had their photos taken with family at center court. A good number of our students’ parents were able to attend. For the ones who could not, due to many different circumstances, our houseparents filled in and were honored. In their years here, our Lakota students develop some strong family-like relationships with our staff.

The Junior Varsity rolled to an easy victory. Eleven of the 17 players on the JV are St. Joseph’s students, although two were injured during the season and weren’t able to play. That younger group had an undefeated, 17-0 record, which bodes well for the future of Chamberlain basketball.

The varsity game wasn’t close either, with the Cubs 30 points ahead in the fourth quarter. Everyone on the bench saw a good deal of action, including a couple of promising eighth graders.

Brady, who has served as student manager throughout high school, is also a senior. He loves basketball, but has cerebral palsy, so he’s fulfilled his dream to be part of the team in a support role.

The coaches asked him to dress tonight.

With about two minutes to go, the student body began chanting his name, and gave him a standing ovation when walked haltingly onto the court and entered the game.

Instead of having him try to run the floor, the coach stationed him along the baseline. A teammate drove the lane to draw defenders, then kicked the ball back out to Brady. He let fly a 15 footer, which rattled around the rim and dropped in. The stands erupted in more cheers.

What a beautiful moment for everyone in the community!

People with physical limitations so often inspire us by the strength of their spirit, and challenge us to always look beyond appearance, and see the goodness, heart and potential within.

Our one senior, Elijah, had a couple of stretches of playing time during the game, but hadn’t scored, so coach put him back in, hoping he would get a bucket. Three times, players who had a clear shot of their own unselfishly passed it to Eli. Each time the ball was in his hands the fans yelled “SHOOT” but he kept passing it to others.

I laughed at the game of hot potato. Finally as the clock was winding down he got the hint and drove for the basket. He was fouled before he could get the shot off, but it was a non-shooting foul, and time expired before he got another chance. I appreciated the way teammates worked together throughout the night and all year.

High on Life!

Fr. Steve helped the Lakota students at the prize table during St. Joseph’s Sobriety Carnival.
Fr. Steve helps a student pick out her prizes during the carnival.

On February 8, the Substance Abuse Prevention Committee (SAPC) sponsored a Valentine’s Carnival and Dance for the Lakota students at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

The carnival included lots of fun games like bowling, horseshoes, musical squares and many more for the students in grades 1-5. The kids earned prizes by playing games. Everyone had fun, including the staff and older students who volunteered their time to help run the games and prize tables.

The Native American children played all kinds of games at St. Joseph’s annual Sobriety Carnival!
Sam aims for the can while playing the bozo game during the carnival.

Later in the evening, our older Native American students (grades 6-12) got to show off their cool moves during a dance. Chris, a senior at St. Joseph’s, was the DJ. He did a great job and was able to get most of our students out on the dance floor – not an easy task!

A Sobriety Poster Contest was also held in which our high school students were the judges. Ambrose Home (1st–3rd grade boys) took first place, second place went to William Home (4th-5th grade girls) and Speyer Home (6th-8th grade boys) won third place.

Ambrose Home took first place in the Sobriety Poster Contest with their ‘We will walk through life drug-free’ poster.Besides helping beat the winter blues, the Valentine’s Carnival and Dance shows our kids how to have fun without using drugs and alcohol.

The poster contest for the Sobriety Carnival offered inspiring messages for living drug free.
Ambrose Home took first place in the Sobriety Poster Contest with their ‘We will walk through life drug-free’ poster.

We are teaching them to get high on life and to find pleasure in the simple things!

Having Fun & Keeping Fit

Keeping fit and strong is important to us at the health center, not just for the Lakota students, but for our employees as well.

Nurse Ronda has been a yoga instructor for years.  Jeff, our PA, has been a wrestling coach in his spare time for as long as I’ve known him.

. Joseph’s Health Center team takes great care of the Lakota boys and girls!
Nurse Ronda (top left) is a yoga instructor. Jeff (center) coaches wrestling. Nurse Nancy (right) has now become a fitness instructor!

So, with a desire to keep myself fit as well, I have become a certified fitness instructor! I am offering aerobic exercise classes to St. Joseph’s employees after work a couple days a week. Fun and free. Can’t go wrong with that, right?

We’ll see how many hang in there till spring.

Have a wonderful day!

Looking forward to a long weekend

Hello and greetings from the High School Program!

Since St. Joseph’s high school students attend the Chamberlain public school, their schedule is different from the 1st-8th grade students.

We’re looking forward to a long weekend with Friday and Monday off for parent-teacher conferences and President’s Day. On Monday we will have a presentation by medical students from the University of South Dakota. We try to utilize no school days to bring in speakers or plan activities that will appeal to the kids and expose them to opportunities for their futures.

Parent-teacher conferences are a nice opportunity to find out what gains our Lakota students have made as well as which areas they need to focus on. We always invite the students’ parent/guardians to take part in conferences and we have a growing number of parents attending. One mother came from three hours away last semester – her dedication to her son’s education is commendable. For parents/guardians who cannot attend, our houseparents summarize the information and share it with them.

We are also looking ahead to the next school year as we work on eighth grade selections. This is a process of determining how many openings we will have in the high school program and seeing which eighth graders will best fit the public school our students attend.

Some years, we have about the same number of openings as we have eighth graders – that makes the selection process much easier. Other years, there are many more eighth graders than there are openings and the process is very difficult.

We begin in October when the High School Residential Coordinator meets with the eighth grade students to share information about the high school program; the students have an opportunity to ask questions and then they fill out a survey about their plans for the following year.

In February the Coordinator meets individually with each student to “interview” them. This consists of questions about their academics, attendance, and participation in extra-curricular/artistic/musical activities. At this same time, surveys are sent to the teachers, eighth grade houseparents, and Family Service Counselors to gather as much information as possible.

Our goal and desire is to keep every student here until they graduate high school. However, that doesn’t always work due to lack of space or when individual student circumstances have changed. One situation we’re seeing more frequently is that the student’s families are becoming more stable and self-sustained.

In these situations, the families are often ready to have their children home with them. As much as we love having the kids at St. Joseph’s, our ultimate goal is to help them and their families become productive members of their tribes and their communities. When that happens and families can be together, everyone benefits.

We are enriched by the opportunity that is provided when families entrust their children to our care and we’re fortunate to be a part of positive changes for the future. Most of all, we are grateful for the generosity of others in helping us accomplish our mission.

A busy weekend ahead

St. Joseph’s annual Sobriety Carnival includes all sorts of fun games for the Lakota children!
Cup stacking is one of the most popular games at the Sobriety Carnival!

Greetings friends!  I hope you are all doing well, staying healthy, and staying warm.  Things here at St. Joseph’s Indian School are going well.  We have a busy week ahead of us!

This weekend is our annual Valentine’s Day Sobriety Carnival and Dance.  This celebration helps to promote sobriety while the Lakota students in grades 1-5 grade enjoy carnival games and the students in grades 6-12 get to have a dance.

Our Substance Abuse Prevention Committee (SAPC) puts on several activities throughout the year to promote sobriety and the dangers of using drugs and overusing alcohol.  The students always seem to enjoy these celebrations.

This weekend the St. Joseph’s Indian School seventh and eighth grade boys will host a basketball tournament.  Several teams will be on campus to play in the tournament.  The boys are very excited to play and hope to have many fans in the stand cheering them on.

Basketball season is in full swing for the Lakota boys at St. Joseph’s Indian School.
The seventh and eighth grade boys’ basketball team will host a tournament at St. Joseph’s this Saturday.

Next week will bring the start of the Spring Cycle of the FAST program. Families and Schools Together, or FAST, is a great program that brings several of our families to campus for eight Fridays.  The program consists of activities designed to help promote family togetherness and strengthen family bonds.  We are looking forward to sharing the eight Fridays of FAST with 15 families this cycle!

As always, we thank you for the support you offer to St. Joseph’s Indian School.  Without your prayers and financial generosity, we would not be able to offer the programs so vital to our students here at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

New adventures, abroad and in the snow

Each summer, we offer a 3-week exchange program with our sister school – also founded by the Priests of the Sacred Heart – in Handrup, Germany. Yesterday, eight of our Native American high school students interested in applying for consideration had their chance to make a power point presentation to a the staff of St. Joseph’s High School program.

They were honest about their fears: lost luggage, not understanding much German, how would they get along with the host families. They also spoke of what they hoped to gain from the experience: a different sense of history, the self-confidence that comes from trying new adventures, appreciation of another culture, and preparation for college.

One girl said that, while both of her parents are Sioux, one of her great grandfathers was a German Homesteader, and she would be fascinated with exploring that connection.

I enjoyed each of the presentations. I was there for moral support, and am glad I’m not the one who has to make the final determination on who goes. Most of the students were juniors, but a couple are still sophomores, so if not selected this year, they will have the chance to try again.

Our younger Lakota students are taking computerized standard testing called MAPS. They’ve proven to be patient throughout the sometimes trying process. One benefit for them is that homework is light this week due to the tests.

After school, many headed to the football field to take advantage of sledding. The sun came out and warmed the ground above melting. Once the sun went down, the slopes refroze and created conditions for long and fast runs down the hill.

As I called it a day, and came past on my way home, the squeals of delight rang in my memory.

Guest Blogger: Linea, 6-8 Grade Reading Teacher

We completed first semester at St. Joseph’s Indian School and are now well on our way into second semester with the Lakota students!

In our reading classes, we are still focusing on nonfiction work, but have graduated into informational text such as news articles, science articles and web pages. We are also working with types of visual media such as photographs, illustrations, charts, diagrams, and maps.

Our goal is to help students be able to comprehend these types of nonfiction, as it is important for them to succeed in their everyday lives.

The Lakota students at St. Joseph’s use computers to complete their MAPS tests.
St. Joseph’s eighth graders work through MAPS testing.

It is also the time of year where we are doing some testing.  This week we will be doing MAPS testing to help us determine the progress of the students.  This is done on the computer so we receive immediate results.  This kind of broad testing helps us recognize any problem areas.

We are also working on spelling words for our annual Spelling Bee that will be held during Catholic Schools Week.  This can be a lot of fun and it is rewarding to see the students get excited.