Last weekend saw the start of our Families and Schools Together (FAST) program. We have been running FAST for several years and have graduated over 100 families. It is a great, fun program!
FAST is held two times per year – once in the fall and once in the spring. This round of FAST runs on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, for a total of eight sessions (four weekends). The program is designed to help bring families closer together, while giving families a chance to meet staff.
During each session, families participate in several activities, including:
Time for parents to meet as a group
Time for an identified child to receive 15 minutes of uninterrupted time with a parent
Games, like Feelings Charades
A lot of fun is had by all! There is singing, laughter, play and time for families to spend together. Our first weekend went wonderfully, and we look forward to our next weekend of FAST!
The students are also gearing up for Spring Break, which starts at the end of next week. Other than a few days at Easter, Spring Break is our last big break and signifies that school is moving toward the end of the year. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we will get all of our Native American students and families home safely for the break!
Our high school students went downtown to church this evening, but all the rest of our Native American students and a good number of staff gathered in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel this morning for mass to begin the season of Lent. The first graders are the ones with the most giggles as ashes smear their foreheads and sprinkle down on their nose. But I sense a seriousness too, about wanting to become a better person. The dark crosses on foreheads were noticeable around campus all day.
My prayer is that I can have more discipline in all the areas of life that will help me to understand and follow God’s will. I get more serious about my growth in the Lord’s ways during this season. Lent is meant to inspire us to overcome sinful and selfish ways and to become more like God. That starts by picking up the daily crosses we are asked to embrace.
I always pick something concrete to give up. This year it is desserts and computer games. I play games a lot more than I watch TV, and with the extra time can spend more time in prayer or doing things for others.
I also try to focus on improving an attitude or a virtue. I get many requests each day from every corner of the campus. Sometimes it feels like a burden rather than an opportunity to serve. I’m reminded of Mother Theresa’s attitude of trying to treat each request as direct from God, and find a way to say yes to whatever was asked of her. I hope to be more generous in responding to what is asked of me.
St. Joseph’s Indian School had another musical treat again today with the performance of a woodwind quintet, The Tradoc Winds, from the US Army Training and Doctrine Command in Virginia. One of the soldiers is from the Chamberlain area, and she and her group met with our Native American students to explain their instruments and encourage our youngsters to stick with their musical instruction, since many of them began at 9 or 10 years of age. I wanted to get up and dance when they played the Clarinet Polka, but had to be satisfied with tapping my feet in time to the music.
Besides a whole bunch of catch up meetings, I had the pile of College and Vo-Tech scholarship applications to look over and sign off on. We have a committee who makes recommendations. We have 26 St. Joseph’s alumni who will receive help continuing their education. The variety of majors is broad, including auto mechanics, pharmacy technician, business management, construction management, chemical dependency counseling and nursing.
It’s gratifying to read the application letters, seeing how we can help people pursue their dreams of a better life for themselves, their family and tribe.
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.
The 4th grade classes are learning about the rituals and beliefs of our Lakota Culture. Within this unit is the center of who we are as a people. The cannupa or pipe is a part of many ceremonies and everyday life. The pipe can be used for special ceremonies and for prayer when it is needed.
The class embraces the hands-on time of learning about the parts of a real pipe as well as singing the song that accompanies the filling of a pipe. We do not smoke the actual pipe because this is something that is for special use and I believe that many of our children should have this experience with their families.
We cannot travel out of state for class trips, so we learn about how pipestone is harvested and shaped into a sacred, beautiful object which holds deep meaning. The students are told the story of the Pte San Win, the White Buffalo Calf Woman, who brought the pipe to our people centuries ago. The pipestone quarry in Pipestone, Minnesota holds historical meaning to the creation stories of our people as well. It is believed that the area where the quarry is today is the place where the last of our people drowned in the great flood. Their blood is the red-colored rock that we use for pipe-making today.
The Native American students are then able to do a little creating of their own. I demonstrate how to carve a piece of soft soap into what might be the bowl of a pipe. As you can see from the pictures, they are proud of their creations.
This unit of learning ties their American Indian culture to their hands, hearts and minds.
Hey everyone! Jona here, from the Development office.
As you know from our other bloggers, St. Joseph’s Christmas celebration was a huge success – thank you so much!
In my role, I get to play a big part in Christmas on campus. I start by collecting wish lists from our Native American students in the fall.
As Christmas approaches, I am the lucky one who opens the boxes of gifts as they arrive. I check to see that nothing has been damaged in shipping (broken Christmas presents are no fun) and send the boxes on to the appropriate houseparent to be wrapped for the boys and girls. I am continually amazed at how thoughtful and generous you are with our students.
It seems corny to say that your work brings you joy but, year after year, it is this task that truly puts the Christmas spirit in my heart.
After the celebration, thank you notes from the students are sent to me, and my Christmas joy is renewed again! My desk is stacked with lovely notes from grateful children, drawings of their favorite toy and pictures of the celebration.
In the mail they go to those who made St. Joseph’s Indian School a special part of their Christmas tradition.
So many notes from the children are brutally honest,
“if not for you, I would have gotten nothing for Christmas.”
But also so unabashedly appreciative,
“I’m so happy there are people like you.”
As one second-grade girl wrote,
“I pray for an angel to bless you every day.”
She couldn’t have said it better. We pray for angels to bless you every day. Thank you for making our Christmas celebration so special!
Today at school, academic certificates and attendance awards for the first semester at St. Joseph’s Indian School were handed out. We have a very large number of our Native American students who get perfect or outstanding attendance, since they all live on campus within a few hundred yards of the school. We try not to be guilty of grade inflation and the academic honor role is somewhat challenging to make. In fact, for this grade level, only one girl, 8th grader Jalynn, maintained straight A’s. As each student received their certificate, they also got to choose a little memento – a gel pen, ring or hacky sack.
Sometimes it’s the simple little things that bring a smile to a kid’s face.
Our Junior Miss St. Joseph selected at our last St. Joseph’s Indian School’s annual powwow has gone back to her home on the Indian reservation to live with her family and attend school there. While we miss the students who move on, we are pleased when they are able to make a successful transition back home. At the awards presentation, Mary, the runner-up Miss St. Joseph’s, was called to the front of the assembly and presented with the beaded crown and banner she will now proudly wear. Mary will now represent St. Joseph’s Indian School at other powwows and events. When we have visiting dignitaries, we usually ask our royalty to be among the first to welcome them.
We have finally gotten our expected winter snows and cold spell. The schools in town had a two-hour late start, but with all our Native American students right here on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus, we began as usual. While most of us grumble at the cold and endure, the kids who got new sleds for Christmas are very excited and were out in force on the slope leading down to the football field after school today.
When I stopped by Religion Class for the 1st grade, Basil asked me,
“Do you walk in heaven?”
“Not yet, but hopefully one day.”
I’m never sure what kind of images go through the mind of a seven-year old. At least they’re not embarrassed to ask the questions that do come to mind, which is refreshing and prompts me to look more closely at my beliefs.
We had 12 of our 39 high school students make the first semester honor roll at Chamberlain High School. Many others came close and certainly improved their GPA from last year. Congratulations to the students who put in the study hours, and those staff who’ve worked so hard to point (and sometimes push) them in the right direction.
We’re starting to work on budgets, and one of the first tasks is to look ahead at all the building and maintenance issues that would be included in capital expenses. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are able make changes on campus each year. We always do regular upgrades and maintenance, but every year need to discern what buildings and equipment have been fixed and repaired so often that they need either replacement or a total renovation. We start out with a big wish list, then have to prioritize and make some decisions based on the rest of our programs budgetary needs.
While we just started the new semester two weeks ago, we’re already working ahead and trying to firm up next year’s school calendar. What makes it tricky is that while our high school students attend the Chamberlain public school, we are never quite on the same schedule. We have more days of school, trying to give our students more time for mastery of their academic subjects. We don’t take off many federal holidays during the school year. Even during the breaks and vacations, we often have break homes to accommodate students who want or need to stay on campus. Luckily Karla is an able administrator able to keep up with those details and give us some solid drafts to consider.
My name is Julie and I am a Family Service Counselor here at St. Joseph’s Indian School. I have worked at St. Joseph’s Indian School for over 10 years and I love it as much today, as I did my first day! The students have returned from break full of stories about what they did over Christmas. They are happy to be back and working on settling back into the routine of St. Joseph’s.
What a great group of students I get to work with!
I work with girls grades 6-12 and provide services such as individual counseling, group counseling, guidance and enrichment activities. Some of the groups that I help facilitate include Daughters of Tradition, Stress Management and Grief Group. I also work with students on issues such as transitioning into high school and plans for post-high school. This year, I started a scrapbooking project with several of my students. What a great way to help them remember their years here at St. Joseph’s. While we are just getting started on this, the girls like the idea of having a way to remember friends and staff from St. Joseph’s. I also do memory scrapbooking with our Native American students who have lost loved ones. I also teach a guidance class. This year in guidance, we are working on friendships, anger management, stress management, racism, substance abuse prevention and goals for the future. We have class one time per week and I love working with the 6th grade class.
Thank you to all who support our work here at St. Joseph’s through praying and giving. We could not provide the wonderful environment we do without all of you! We hope to have you come and visit us sometime!
We began the new semester with Tuesday morning gathering in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel for a prayer service. There we also announced the students who received the Leo John Dehon Service Awards for the past quarter. The students were nominated by teachers and houseparents for their attitude, help and cooperation in the school and homes. In addition to academics, we want to encourage our kids to be good and kind people as well.
While last week was calm and quiet with long blocks of time to work away on projects, the first few days of the new semester felt frantic. As all the Child Services people got back to their computers after a couple of weeks off, the electronic communications that I thought I’d cleared up, started coming in at a pace faster than I could answer.
I’ve also been participating in a series of meetings with many different departments to listen to their questions and feedback as we prepare to launch our 2015 Strategic Plan. We hope to finalize it by the end of the month, but even by raising the questions and setting goals we have already begun laying the groundwork in the many areas we want to improve.
The bar joists for the Akta Lakota Museum expansion have arrived, within the next week we’ll start to see the roof go up and the completion of the exterior frame. January in South Dakota is usually bundle up weather, but today we set a record high for this date with a balmy 66 degrees. A year ago we were in the midst of a long cold winter where such work wouldn’t have even been attempted.
Most of our Native American students have returned, but a few are still out. A few had transportation problems. One family is still out because of a funeral. One child has the flu and wouldn’t have been able to go to class even if he made it here. The high school program opened up all four of its homes and campus is starting to get back to its normal rhythms.
With the spring like weather, the students were out in full-force after school playing tetherball, football, tag, basketball and jumping rope. First grader Treshawn repeatedly bemoaned the fact that we put the bicycles into storage for the winter since it was perfect riding weather. I joined in at the basketball hoop in front of the Benedict Homes and played with the 1st-4th graders. They’re used a lot of one-on-one moves, but I taught a few of them the basics of the give and go. A few of them got the hang of cutting to the basket and receiving a pass – wide open for the layup. Next we’ll have to teach the rest the concept of defending!
When supper time came I joined the Ambrose (1st – 3rd grade boys) Home for a hearty stew.
The conversation got around to Christmas break, and while many of the boys shared about their favorite toys they received, one of our second graders told me that he didn’t get anything for Christmas.
Those are the children that I know our upcoming Christmas celebration with presents will mean the most to. I know his family must have really appreciated the gifts he was able to bring home to share from our Christmas store.