Eighth-grade graduation at St. Joseph’s brings another school year to a close. It is fun and joyful, nostalgic and emotional. Most of the Lakota students will return to campus after the weekend to begin a three-week transition program to high school, but others will leave to pursue their high school education elsewhere, which leaves a bittersweet feeling.
Cody, who graduated from St. Joseph’s High School Program in 2006, returned to give our students her advice and comments in a commencement address. She told them that St. Joseph’s Indian School can give them lots of opportunities, but that won’t matter unless they make the commitment to want a better education and better life for themselves.
Her dad died when she was only two, which made it a huge struggle for her family to provide the basics. There were times school got hard, and being away from her family on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation even harder. When she cried and called home and wanted to leave, she is most grateful now that her mom told her to stay, and work hard.
That support from her mom and the St. Joseph’s community enabled her to go on to college, start a career and a family.
I so enjoy making the rounds and reconnecting with the Native American families I’ve gotten to know over the years, and making some new acquaintances. They were so proud of their graduates, and many were honored with traditional Lakota (Sioux) star quilts during the ceremony. All were also give a medicine wheel hair tie, pinned on them by alumni and staff.
About 14 children are staying in the break homes, and will be with us for the next seven weeks of the summer, so campus isn’t completely quiet. But, there was a quite lull after the ceremony concluded and the luncheon was served; most of the families had packed up student belongings, and headed into the four directions.