Preparing the Lakota students for their next steps in life

Greetings from St. Joseph’s Indian School! Although spring is only a few weeks

Julie is a counselor for the Lakota boys and girls at St. Joseph's.
Julie, Family Service Counselor

away, it has been cold and snowy in Chamberlain. The kids are getting a bit antsy and most are ready for warmer temperatures so they can be outside and run off some energy!

We are also at a point in the school year where our seniors and our eighth grade students begin final preparations for their next steps in life.

Where will I go to college or what will I do after graduation? What high school will I attend?

All of these questions lead to some anxiety, introspection, and excitement.

As a Family Service Counselor, it is my job to help the students asking themselves those questions continue making plans for the future.

St. Joseph’s is proud to have six seniors graduating from our high school program this spring!
St. Joseph’s is proud to have six seniors graduating from our high school program this spring!

Many seniors have already applied to colleges or for military service and are pretty secure in what their next step will be. We continue to put plans together to plan the details that will help those students succeed in their next endeavor.

As we work on the process of selecting eighth grade students for our high school program, we work to keep stress levels down and ease anxieties. No matter what our eighth grade students choose to do next, it will be a new adventure!

While it is exciting to see a student graduate from high school, it is a bittersweet moment as we prepare to let the students spread their wings and fly. While many of our eighth grade students will return to our high school program in the fall, some will choose to attend high schools in other places… another bittersweet moment.

No matter what a student chooses to do after these milestones in their lives, we wish them well and wish them success.

As we navigate through the end of winter and the season of Lent, it is a good time to reflect on what the mission of St. Joseph’s Indian School and in what ways we can continue to be of service to the Lakota (Sioux) students and their families. We truly thank all of you who have chosen to be of service to our mission here at St. Joseph’s, through donations, prayer, and support.

Without your commitment to service, we would not be able to provide the programs necessary to help the students learn the skills they will need to survive in the world.

So as the last weeks of school quickly approach, know that amidst home trips, softball, track and summer preparation, you who support us so well are not forgotten!

We pray for you daily, and thank the Lord daily for all you do. May God Bless and keep you always.


Family Service Counselor

How do Lakota (Sioux) children get to St. Joseph’s Indian School?

Hello and Happy Summer!

Julie is a counselor for the Lakota boys and girls at St. Joseph's.
Julie, Family Service Counselor

Hopefully the summer is treating you all well and you are enjoying some sunshine and nice weather! Here at St. Joseph’s Indian School, summer continues to be a busy time. As a Family Service Counselor, I travel to various parts of South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska to visit the students and families we work with. It is a great experience being able to travel and see our students and their families.

Summer is also time for admissions work. Every student who comes to St. Joseph’s Indian School goes through an admissions process. The process begins when a parent or guardian submits an application for their child.

Once an application is received, a file is started for the student and the admissions staff begin to gather data for the child. Some of the things we gather for the file are medical records, school records, immunizations, birth certificates and medical insurance information.

Once a file is started, the family will be contacted to set up a time to meet with a staff person for an interview with both the student and the parent or guardian. During this part of the process, we gather information about family life, family expectations, medical needs, behavioral needs, school needs, and psychological needs. This is called the social history.

There are also a few questions for the student to answer:

  • What is your favorite food?

    St. Joseph’s counselors travel to South Dakota Indian Reservations all summer, doing home visits for current students and interviews for new students.
    St. Joseph’s counselors cross the wide open spaces of South Dakota to visit the Lakota students in their homes each summer.
  • How do you like school?
  • Do you want to come to St. Joseph’s?
  • How do you express your feelings?

Once the interviews are completed, staff working on the file will call the child’s previous teacher to ask a few questions. When all the information is gathered and the social history is complete, the student’s file is presented to the admissions board for review.

The admissions board consists of the Residential Director, Residential Coordinators, Family Service Counselors, Principal, Student Coordinator, Special Education Director, and the Pastoral Care Director. The file is reviewed and the board decides if a student can be accepted to St. Joseph’s Indian School.

While we strive to serve the needs of the children who apply, not every student can be accepted.

Why would a student NOT be accepted to St. Joseph’s? That is a good question.

There are several reasons, the first and most frequent reason is that there is no room in a certain grade for the student.

Another common reason is that the student has medical or educational needs we cannot meet.

Students may also not be accepted because they have behavioral or emotional needs that require constant supervision. While students are very carefully supervised at St. Joseph’s, some students need more supervision than we can provide. The safety of the children in our care is our top priority.

St. Joseph’s admissions process includes both students and families.
The Lakota (Sioux) children who attend St. Joseph’s are enrolled by their parents or guardians.

Additionally, a student may tell the interviewer they do not want to attend St. Joseph’s. If a student – especially an older student – states they do not have an interest in coming to St. Joseph’s, they may not be accepted.   We do our best to give every student who wants to come to our school a chance to do so. Unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control sometimes make that impossible.

School starts already on August 11! We are working hard to fill several openings in our homes for the 2014-2015 school year. For the remainder of July, we will be on the road working on files for admissions, visiting families and students, and meeting new people. It is a great time of year!

Of course, it is BETTER when the kids are here!

We wish you a safe and fun filled summer –

Julie, Family Service Counselor

Happy Spring from the Lakota (Sioux) children!

Happy Spring!

Julie is a counselor for the Lakota boys and girls at St. Joseph's.
Julie, Family Service Counselor

Even though the weather cannot seem to make up its mind here in South Dakota, spring is officially here! The Lakota (Sioux) students returned from spring break a couple weeks ago and all seemed to have enjoyed the time they were able to spend with family. As we move into April, the final weeks of classes at St. Joseph’s Indian School year will become very busy.

Track has started for our students – the team is 24 strong! St. Joseph’s high school students will run track for Chamberlain High School. Good luck Cubs!

St. Joseph’s junior high students (grades 6-8) students will also start softball in the near future. Hopefully, the weather will start to cooperate and we will have some nice days for our students to participate in these sports.


St. Joseph’s students learn basic softball skills – hitting, catching and throwing.
Swing, batter batter, swing!

Our seniors are getting anxious and ready for graduation, as are our eighth grade students. It’s time for pictures, dress and suit shopping; the joy our graduates are feeling about their accomplishments is nearly tangible!

We wish them all a happy remainder of the school year. Hang tough graduates, the end is near!

We are also fully immersed in the Lenten Season, and the students are looking forward to one more short break for Easter. As we are called in this Lenten Season to prepare our hearts for Resurrection of our Lord, we are also called to serve one another.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of our donors and benefactors for their generous donations, which make it possible for all of the staff of St. Joseph’s Indian School to serve the Native American people. Without your support, we could not do the good that we do.

The Lakota children play softball each spring.
If the weather cooperates, the Lakota children will have lovely green grass to play on by the end of the school year!

I wish you all a warm and joyous Spring, Lenten Season and Easter Season.

May the Lord bless you abundantly and keep you and yours safe and healthy!

Julie, Family Service Counselor

A Job of the Heart

Greetings from St. Joseph’s Indian School!  My name is Julie H and I am a Family Service Counselor at St. Joseph’s, working with girls in grades 6-12.  I recently had celebrated my 12th anniversary as an employee here. Can you believe it?

Julie and Native American students make fry bread together.
Julie helps Kezrai and Angela make fry bread for the meal following an Inipi ceremony, which is the rite of purification in Lakota tradition.

My first two years at St. Joseph’s, I was a houseparent for the Lakota students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. My next two years I was a Case Coordinator, and for the last eight years I have been a Family Service Counselor.  My, how time flies!

As I look out my window today and see a bit of snow in the air, I am in a contemplative mood.  I have had the question posed to me, more often lately, what brought me to St. Joseph’s and why I choose to stay?

The answer is really simple, actually. It’s the students.

The opportunity to work with kids brought me here, and that is what keeps me here.

I have said, since I came to St. Joseph’s, that working here is not a job – it is a calling.  God reached into my heart and my life and brought me here to this wonderful place.  There is really no other explanation.

I will be honest… this job can bring a person to tears.  Tears of JOY when a student succeeds, tears of sadness when a student leaves, hurts, or struggles.  Working at St. Joseph’s is a calling of the heart.  And the human heart is a fragile thing.  Working with our students can put your feet on a cloud, but it can also bring you to your knees.

Why?  Because it is a job of the heart.

We, the staff of St. Joseph’s, lead with our heart.  We want what is best for the students and their families.  We rejoice when our families rejoice, we weep when our families weep.  We celebrate when a student gets an A on a test, our hearts break when a student is disappointed or let down.

We only want what is best for our Native American students, but we all know life isn’t always fair and sometimes bad things happen to good people.  When that happens, we put our hearts into it and support our families and students the best we can.

I am feeling truly blessed today that my calling has been to work with the families and children at St. Joseph’s.  The good days outnumber the bad, the tears of joy outnumber the tears of sadness and saying “I work at St. Joseph’s Indian School,” always leaves my heart feeling full and happy.

This is a calling…but I could not fulfill my calling without the prayers and support of you, the benefactors of St. Joseph’s Indian School  Without your support, we would not be able to offer the programs, stability, and safety we offer to our students.  Without your support, we would not be able to offer the support we do for our families.

So while my job is a calling, your support is a calling as well.  And I thank God every day that you have been called to be part of the St. Joseph’s family.

I send blessings and prayers your way as we move into the holiday season.  May God bless you abundantly and fill your heart with joy for being called to St. Joseph’s.



A Summer Day at St. Joseph’s

Hello friends of St. Joseph’s Indian School!  I hope this finds you all doing well and enjoying your summer!  Summer is in full swing here at St. Joe’s and it is keeping us all very busy!  I am a Family Service Counselor and wanted to share a little with you about what summer is for me.

St. Joseph’s counselors visit their students during the summer, traveling to their homes on South Dakota Indian Reservations.
Julie and one of the Lakota students she works with, Chelsea.

During the summer, the Family Service Counselors hit the road and go visit our Lakota students and their families.  We check in to see that the students and families are doing well, as well as ask if there is anything they need from us during the summer.  The students and families are usually happy to see us and are very welcoming.

We also complete interviews for prospective students during the summer.  Part of the admissions process is gathering records for a student, but perhaps the most important part of the admissions process is meeting the child and their family.

We go to their homes and complete an interview to see if they would be a good fit for St. Joseph’s programs. We also take time during the interview to explain St. Joseph’s Indian School, the programs offered and the schedule in the homes and school.  The interview process usually takes about an hour to an hour and a half to complete.

It is always wonderful meeting new families!

Other things counselors complete during the summer include paperwork, getting ready for the upcoming school year, attending workshops and trainings, and other tasks that pile up during the school year.

While there are a few Native American students on campus during the summer, it is much different from during the school year.  Most of a Family Service Counselor’s summer is spent on the road traveling to various locations around South Dakota to check in with students and families.

We get to see a lot of beautiful country and it is always a pleasure seeing students and families.  One of the students I have seen this summer is already anxious to come back for the new school year! J

We miss our students during the summer, so getting to see them is a bonus.  We are all ready for them to come back and to start a new school year in August.

Enjoy your summer, and as always, thank you for the generous support you give to St. Joseph’s Indian School.  Without your prayers and support, we could not do the wonderful work we do!

Blessing to all of you!

Giving back to the community

Earlier this year, St. Joseph’s Daughters of Tradition group was given the task of coming up with ideas for a service learning project as a way to give back to the community.  The Native American youth in the group decided they wanted to raise money for the Humane Society in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Recently, they headed to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to complete the project!

Our Lakota (Sioux) girls decided to donate to the Humane Society. To raise money, the girls planned a walking taco and bake sale.  The girls did all of the baking for the bake sale and group leaders assisted in getting the taco meat ready for the walking tacos.  The girls had two different sales and raised over $200.00 to donate to the Humane Society.  They were very proud of themselves!

While at the Humane Society, the girls were able to tour the facility, walk dogs and spend some time with the cats.  The girls really enjoyed themselves and if they had been able to, I think a few of them would have come home with new pets!  They did a great job and represented St. Joseph’s Indian School very well.  The Human Society was very pleased with their generous donation.

St. Joseph’s Daughters of Tradition group meets two times per month. This is a great place for the girls to talk about any issues they are having.  The group begins with a “Talking Circle,” which gives every girl a chance to talk about how they are doing and voice any issues or concerns they have.  The girls are very engaged in the group and enjoy the time they get to spend together and the opportunity to share concerns with their peers.

As one of the leaders of the group, I am so very pleased with the girls and their effort in the service learning project!


Family Service Counselor

Easter Break at St. Joseph’s

The Lakota boys and girls at St. Joseph’s enjoyed spring and Easter break from March 22 – April 1.
Everyone was excited for a break from school!

Greetings, friends of St. Joseph’s Indian School!  I hope you are doing well.  It is hard to believe, but spring is here!  The official start of spring was March 20, and with that comes St. Joseph’s Indian School’s spring and Easter Breaks.  The students departed for break on March 22 and will return April 1.

Most of our students will be headed home.  At this most holy time of year, it is wonderful to see our students being able to spend the time with their families.  Our students have worked hard over the last months, since returning from Christmas break, and are excited to have a few days away from school to be with family.  A few of our students will be remaining on campus for the break, with houseparents in one of St. Joseph’s homes.

Our high school students do get a few days off for Easter Break, but lament the fact they no longer get the long Spring Break our younger Lakota students get J.

Upon returning to St. Joseph’s campus on April 1, students in grades 1-5 will get to take part in an Easter egg hunt.  This is always great fun for the younger students.  Grades 6-8 will be having a potluck on that day, which is open to all of the 6-8 grade students and their families.  This is the first year the 6-8 grade community will be holding the potluck and we hope for great success.

Over Spring Break, three of our eighth grade students headed to Washington, D.C., for a few days to tour our nation’s capital.

For a couple of the students, it will be their first experience with flying, and although nervous, they are very excited to be on a plane!  The students are also looking forward to being away from South Dakota and experiencing a big city and all that Washington, D.C. has to offer.  We wish them safe travels and an excellent adventure!

At this most holy time of year, we here at St. Joseph’s Indian School wish to take a minute to THANK YOU for all of the support you offer us throughout the year.

Without your prayers and generous financial support, we would not be able to do the work we do here.  St. Joseph’s Indian School is an amazing place and we are so very lucky to be able to work with some amazing children.

We wish you a most blessed Easter season!

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.

Guest Blogger: Julie

Christ Tunpi – Merry Christmas!
Christ Tunpi – Merry Christmas!
Greetings friends!!

My name is Julie and I am a Family Service Counselor here at St. Joseph’s Indian School. I hope this wonderful time of year finds you all doing well! Things here at St. Joseph’s Indian School have been very busy over the last few days! The students are getting ready to head home for Christmas break. The weather looks good for their travel, which is truly a blessing.

This past weekend was the annual “Christmas Store.” This is a time when students can pick out gifts for their family members. The items available for gifts come from your generous donations; the students really enjoy being able to pick out gifts for their families! The students also get a chance to see Santa Clause and have their gifts wrapped. It is a fun-filled day that both students and staff enjoy!

Other things that have been happening at St. Joseph’s Indian School include the conclusion of the girls’ basketball season, the students’ Christmas program and a new ceremony called the “Tears Ceremony.” The Tears Ceremony is held at St. Joseph’s when a student loses a loved one. This is a time for the students to remember their loved one and be supported by friends and staff.

Our first Tears Ceremony was held this week and was a beautiful tribute to the students’ loved one. Still in its beginning stages, the Tears Ceremony gives the students one more way to remember and grieve the loved one they have lost. The student who has lost the loved one is an integral part of the planning process for the ceremony. We hope that the Tears Ceremony will assist the students with the grief process and let them know they are supported and cared for while they traverse the grief process.

Houseparents help students choose gifts for their families.
Houseparents help students choose gifts for their families.

At this time of year, I always think of the generosity of our benefactors. St. Joseph’s Indian School offers so many great things to our students… but without your kindness and generosity, we would be unable to do the great things we do. So at this time I say Thank You for all you do for St. Joseph’s Indian School. May you have a wonderful and blessed Christmas and New Year!


Guest Blogger: Julie H.

Greetings friends of St. Joseph’s Indian School!  I hope the Feast of All Souls Day finds  you doing well!

Things here on St. Joseph’s campus are going well!  It is hard to believe we have finished our first quarter of school and are already a couple of weeks into the second quarter.  My, how times flies!  The students are working hard to keep their grades up and do well in school.

Happy Halloween from everyone at St. Joseph's Indian School!
Happy Halloween from everyone at St. Joseph’s Indian School!

Halloween was a great hit.  Most of the kids dressed up in costumes and there were some great costumes!  The students were able to trick-or-treat here on campus and then take part in a costume contest.  Some of the homes also went into Chamberlain to trick-or-treat as well.  All of the students I have talked to say they really enjoyed Halloween!

With Halloween past us now, the next big events on the campus of St. Joseph’s Indian School are girls basketball, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We haven’t seen much snow here yet, so I wonder if we will have a white Christmas this year!

Our girls’ basketball seasons kicks off on Monday, November 5.  The girls are very excited to begin their season.  The girls are working hard in practice and learning all they can in the short time they have before their games begin.  Basketball season is always a busy time as all of the games take place between early November and Christmas Break.  With as fast as this school year is going, both Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before we know it!

As we move closer to Thanksgiving, I would like to thank each and every one of you for all of the support you give to St. Joseph’s Indian School.  Please know that you are remembered in our prayers!

Julie H.
Family Service Counselor