As you walked into the St. Joseph’s Indian School School Assembly room, you could feel the anxiety and tension radiating off our twenty-two 8th graders. Although they looked their best sitting along a wall in their dress clothes, they fidgeted and squirmed as they waited for their turn to stand and speak.
The room was packed with other students, staff and parents waiting to support the 8th graders in their endeavor. The emotions in the room – oh, the emotions – you could feel them.
You see, the 8th graders have been working on a quarter-long research project which encompassed three different classes: American History, English and Language Arts and Computers. This was a beast of a project for them with several different parts and high expectations.
The first part was selecting a research topic to write a paper. The project also had to have a PowerPoint presentation with the information they researched. The students worked very hard building their presentations by writing speech note cards and practicing speaking in front of a group.
But, the true test for many was the final portion of the project: presenting their research to a room filled with their St. Joseph’s peers, staff members and their family members.
As I took pictures to share with families, I watched each nervous 8th grader slowly walk to the microphone, adjust its height, take a deep breath and give their speech. I was impressed with all of our students. Their practice and hard worked showed. I saw glimpses of the adults they were turning into – future leaders, future community members and future decent human beings.
I have had the privilege to watch many of the students grow since they were in 1st grade, while others just came to our school this year. But in all of them I saw growth.
I saw a student who was gone for a week for a family funeral, who missed out on practicing the speech, stand up and give the speech with poise and grace.
I watched the student who didn’t speak for the first two months of this year stand confident and use the voice we helped bring out.
I watched the student who often mumbles speak clearly and with knowledge about a tough topic.
I watched the toughest students in school anxiously walk to the microphone and humbly present the information.
As I watched the speeches, I realized I was witnessing a natural progression in the development of our students. I watched them move from immature little children to mature students, ready to take on their next steps after 8th grade and beyond.
I was sad at first as I thought about how our kids have grown up so fast and will soon be leaving us. But then I felt so proud to see how our kids have grown. I was humbled at the realization that we at St. Joseph’s have been entrusted with their care and the privilege of molding these students into future successful adults.
As always, thank you for your support and prayers that enable us to be part of these kids’ lives!
St. Joseph’s Residential Coordinator, 7th-8th grade