Guest Blogger: Julie H

Over the last few weeks, St. Joseph’s campus has been noisy with construction.  But campus has begun to ring with a new and happy noise… The noise of students returning to campus!!  I had the opportunity to visit many of the students I work with over the summer and most of them are ready to come back to campus and go back to school.  What a great thing to hear!  The students are excited to return and staff is just as excited to see them.

I have worked at St. Joseph’s Indian School for close to 11 years.  I have often been asked “What brought you to St. Joseph’s Indian School?” or “Why have you stayed at St. Joseph’s Indian School?”  The answer is really pretty simple.  I came to St. Joseph’s Indian School because I was excited about the opportunity to work with Native American youth.  I have worked with kids since I was in college and that is where I found my niche.  I love working with kids.  So the opportunity to work with Native American youth was something I just could not pass up.

Why have I stayed?  Well, that answer is pretty simple too.  What brings me back to St. Joseph’s Indian School, as well as most staff you will ask, year after year, is the students and the families I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with.  I have the opportunity, each year, to work with some of the greatest kids on the planet.  They are creative, fun, out-going, resilient and all around good kids.

I grew up in a wonderful environment and I feel God has called me to help be a part of the great environment we offer the students and families we work with here at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  Every day is not great, sometimes our students struggle, but being able to be a positive role model and helper for our students and families, humbles and honors me.

As we come to the close of summer, I would ask for prayers for our students and their families, as well as the staff of St. Joseph’s Indian School, as we return to school.  We will all keep you in our thoughts and prayers as well!  Have a wonderful rest of the summer and if you are ever in the area, stop by and say hello!


Family Service Counselor

Guest Blogger: Shana

Cante wasteya nape ciyuzapeloI take your hand in friendship.

This is a common Lakota greeting; the literal meaning is “With a good heart I take your hand.” My name is Shana and I’m the High School Residential Director.

This summer is going by fast as we’ve had four of our five high school homes open and fully operational with 41 high school students on campus! High school students choose to remain on our St. Joseph’s campus so they can either work a summer job, take driver’s education class or participate in our Freshman Transition Summer Program.

Thankfully it’s not all work – students get to relax, take shopping trips, go to the movies or swim at Chamberlain’s city pool or public beach area. Students remain connected with family and sometimes get checked out by their parent or guardian so they can attend family functions or visit a family member in the hospital.

There’s never a dull moment on our campus!

We have 19 upcoming freshmen in our Freshman Transition Summer Program. These students were able to meet their future high school teachers, take a trip to visit Mitchell Vo-Tech, Oglala Lakota Community College and tour the Badlands on their way to visit the Red Cloud Indian School Art Show. This three-week camp is full of both education and transition activities in order to get them prepared for the challenges of their first year in high school – and beyond.

The transition program ends Friday with a Parent Luncheon. Here, we will review the changes the students will face in high school and the differences in our high school residential program from our elementary residential program. Everyone enjoys pizza, and then the students are able to give their parent or guardian a tour of their new St. Joseph’s high school home.

All the students will then return in August, either a week before school starts so they can begin sports practices with their Chamberlain athletic team, or return two days prior to the first day of school for our Student Orientation.

Our high school summer programs don’t end in July; we have three students participating on our Summer Transitional Living Program starting on June 22 through the end of July.

Two of these students are currently in Germany with two St. Joseph’s chaperones and two other St. Joseph’s students as part of our Germany Exchange Program with our sister school in Handrup, Germany. They will spend two and a half weeks learning about the German culture, giving presentations to Handrup students about their Lakota and American culture and, of course, doing some sightseeing. The Handrup students will then take a trip to the USA and come visit us here at St. Joseph’s Indian School in October so they can learn more about American and Lakota culture. It’s been a great learning experience for both staff and students.

These are not the only St. Joseph’s students who are able to travel during their summer vacation. One of our graduating seniors was awarded the Davis-Bahcall scholarship. Erin will spend one week digging deep into the science and engineering that exists at the Sanford Underground Laboratory in Lead, South Dakota. She will spend three weeks studying modern physics at Princeton University in New Jersey under world-renowned scholars and researchers. She will also travel to research laboratories in Europe to experience the world of modern scientific research.

We are very proud of Erin’s accomplishments and know she’ll succeed next year as she begins her college career.

One of our upcoming seniors was accepted into College Horizons, this is a six-day “crash course” in preparing for college. Aaron will learn about a broad variety of colleges and universities, and establish personal relationships with admission representatives and college counselors. At each site, 100 students from across the nation work with over 70 expert college counselors and college admission officers to help students learn how to fill out college applications, including essays and prepare for college. We hope Aaron has a great experience – congratulations!

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer as much as we are!

Pilamayathank you,


Only two weeks away

As I reflect back upon the 2011-2012 school year, it is difficult for me to believe the end of the school year is only two weeks away.  It does not seem as though we have already gone through 38 weeks of school!

I know many of the students are counting down the days until their summer vacation arrives however, as a classroom teacher, I get a little down around this time of year.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my summer vacation just as much as the students, but I also miss the kids and wonder how they are all doing at their homes.  I sometimes come out to St. Joseph’s campus during the summer and think to myself,

“Wow, it sure is boring here without all the students running around and chatting.”

Eighth-grade graduation is upon us. Some of our students will be attending our high school program, while other students have made alternative plans for their future.  It is a time of excitement and pride, but also anxiety for both staff and students.  As staff, we have known some of these students since they were in first grade.  We have developed relationships, shared stories, shared laughter, had disagreements over rules or assignments, and sometimes even listened through our students’ tears.

Regardless of what our students have gone through in their lives, they can look back on their time at St. Joseph’s and realize they have grown, whether it be physically, emotionally, or simply that they are graduating from eighth grade.  They have had many accomplishments; they have formed many bonds, both with adults and their classmates that will continue no matter where they choose to go in their lives.  They should be proud of themselves, for they have made it.  It may have been difficult, but they have fulfilled the requirements for their first eight years of schooling.

On May 25, there will be a chapel full of people watching as each student is handed their diploma and shares their favorite memories of being a student at St. Joseph’s.  As I look forward to that day, I can’t help but smile.  For I, too, have a feeling of accomplishment.  I was given the wonderful opportunity of being a part of these students’ lives and I have helped them grow.  I can only hope I’ve done my best because more than anything these children deserve the absolute best, as they are our future.  The smiles on the graduates faces as they receive their diplomas is my motivation to continue on with my work here at St. Joseph’s, as I can see by both the piece of paper in their hands and the twinkles in their eyes that I have made a difference.

This difference would not be possible without the donations from our many generous benefactors.  I want to take the time to thank you for your generosity and kindness over the 2011-2012 school year.  Without you, none of this would be possible.


Lakota home remodeling project

The kids are so excited to see the finished homes!
The kids are so excited to see the finished homes!

The Lakota (Sioux) homes are eight homes in four buildings, two homes in each building. The homes are the Cyr/Perky, Fisher/Pinger, Speyer/Rooneyand the Stevens/Mathias. These homes were originally built in 1982. Our remodeling started in 2008 with the Cyr/Perky Home and we are finishing the project this year with the Stevens/Mathias Home.

During the renovations the kids that are assigned to those homes, are temporarily house in another home on campus.  The renovations usually begin when school is dismissed for the summer and finishes up the following summer.  Therefore, the home is under construction for one school year.

Part of the homes have had the walls opened up to make the family living and study areas more open. Handicapped bathrooms were also added.

To make the homes more energy-efficient:

  • new windows were added
  • the heating and cooling systems were upgraded
  • more insulation was installed
St. Joseph’s remodeling projects are going great.
St. Joseph’s remodeling projects are going great.

With the completion of the last of the home remodeling this year, the children will be living in homes that are cooler in the summer and much warmer on the coldest winter days, with all the conveniences of home.

PS – read more about St. Joseph’s Indian School remodeling projects here!

Your friends,

The Facilities Team

Welcome back everyone

After a two-week vacation, our Native American students returned to St. Joseph’s campus shortly after noon when our homes opened.

Today, was still the legal holiday for our year round staff, so morning was very quiet in the office. I’m going to miss the uninterrupted times to work on projects. But, I missed the students and child services staff being away even more, and was delighted to welcome them back.

I made rounds of most of the homes. Early in the afternoon, when only a handful of students were back, proved to be a good time to check in with houseparents about their holiday break. Closer to supper time, more of the children were around. Some were unpacking or doing laundry. Since our students come from across the state, they may not get to see each other when they are home. Many were checking in with the friends they hadn’t seen in a while.

All of the kids were so happy to be back at St. Joseph's Indian School.
All of the kids were so happy to be back at St. Joseph's Indian School.

Twenty-six degrees seems cold, but when I came by the football field,  the Ambrose boys (1st-3rd grade) were out under the lights and were having a great time tossing a ball around and dreaming of one day playing in a Bowl game. I’m glad that our students are more likely to play games outside than watch them on TV. I am concerned that when like most kids, they have a tendency to overdo the video games.

The health center was a hub of activity. After each student dropped their belongings at their homes, they came to see our nurses for a brief examination, a screening for head lice and a check on medications, cuts, bruises or injuries needing attention. We try to keep a close check on health issues, fully buying into the maxim that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Semester breaks are also times of student transitions. I met Kayla and Anthony, two of the new students we accepted from our waiting list once we had an opening. They are both excited about the opportunities here and scared about how they will fit in. I tried to learn their names right away. It’s important as a child when adults know you as an individual and can call you by name. (Something biblical about that as well!)

School starts tomorrow. Welcome back everyone!