Four from St. Joseph’s Indian School Receive National Honors

(L-R) Annie, ShyAnne, Tia and David accept their various Catherine Hershey National Awards.

The ability to connect with others, each in their unique way, is the gift shared by four from St. Joseph’s Indian School that made them standouts to win Catherine Hershey National Awards.

The awards were announced at the Coalition on Residential Excellence (CORE) Banquet at Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Penn. They were among only seven honored with awards nationally.

  • Recent graduate ShyAnne Jumping Eagle was named “Student of the Year.”
  • David and Tia Fontenot of St. Joseph’s High School Program received “Houseparents of the Year.”
  • Annie Schoenhard, a second grade teacher, was honored as “Educator of the Year.”

ShyAnne Jumping Eagle

Jumping Eagle’s nomination says she connects through wóčhaŋtognakegenerosity —a core value of the Lakota. It means sharing not only material goods but also heart, comfort and support.

Her previous Family Service Counselor Darcy Belitz said, “She has a glowing smile that warms your heart.”

Belitz added that in Jumping Eagle’s work as a Certified Nurse Assistant, her gentle presence and compassion assured residents that she was there to care for them and lend a listening ear. Jumping Eagle continues to work as a CNA, and she plans to further her healthcare education after gaining more experience.

Quiet and humble, Jumping Eagle was the connector with other girls in the high school program.

“Many of the younger girls decided to go out for sports because they knew she was there to support and encourage them,” Belitz explained. “She persisted year after year.”

David (left) and Tia (center) with some of the girls in their home and fellow houseparents.

David and Tia Fontenot

The Fontenot’s nomination described the couple as going “above and beyond,” making connections in various ways, but perhaps none more significant than their Louisiana-bred hospitality and Tia’s excellent cooking. She knows every student’s favorite food and uses it to build relationships and express love.

In another example of connection, when the darkness of grief fell over the girls’ home because of the pandemic and suicide, the couple purchased memorial lanterns for each girl, helped them fill them with prayers, notes and special memories, and lit and launched them at a predawn ceremony on the Missouri River. It was a lesson about how we depend on each other when we are vulnerable.

Despite the myriad ways the couple goes above and beyond for the students in their care, they maintain strong connections in the community, supporting countless high school extracurricular activities during their time off, providing meals for families in need and staying active in their faith family.

Annie Schoenhard

Schoenhard’s nomination for “Educator of the Year” notes, “Connection is a priority with Annie” and describes her as a teacher who wants her students to feel at home, safe and nurtured. Principal Sharmel Olsen adds, “When one approach isn’t working well with a student, Annie finds another. She is patient, flexible and understanding with every child. Her students feel seen, heard and valued.”

Schoenhard connects not only with her own students but also builds camaraderie in the first through third-grade community. For school-year-end fun, she organized the classes in rows, each child with a bucket. The first child in each row had water in their bucket, and the goal was to pass the bucket overhead, pouring water into the child’s bucket behind them without spilling or turning around. She planned the bucket-brigade experience for the connections built through laughter and teamwork.

The Chamberlain community is a better place for the many connections Schoenhard makes through the booster club, brownie scouts, fireman’s auxiliary, her church and more.

St. Joseph’s Indian School salutes these four remarkable people who build powerful connections in the school community and community at large.

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

9 thoughts on “Four from St. Joseph’s Indian School Receive National Honors”

  1. Been a supporter of St Joseph’s for many years, love hearing a bout these outstanding people and the care, and encouragement they give .. truly a blessing…..
    Thank you most sincerely,

  2. Congratulations to the four winners and to St. Joseph Indian School for nurturing and encouraging the kind of leadership and service that they embody.
    My husband and I are so glad that our donations, along with our fellow donors donations, are put to such good use.

  3. I wrote a book, that I hope will be published soon. My first chapter was all about being a Lakota child, knowing not just the love of her parents, but the full love of all the people of the village, the tradition of togetherness, of knowing each had all the others ALWAYS to count on. It was a given. Learning of the National Honors endowed upon the Lakota child, the teacher, the Houseparents, gives me a big thrill, knowing that today’s reality is the same as my fictional presentation. Friends are Forever. Family is Forever. And so; may it ever be.

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