National Family Week is an annual event recognized each Thanksgiving week that celebrates the family and its value to society. The theme for National Family Week is Connections Count, recognizing that strong families are at the center of strong communities. Children live better lives when their families are strong!
At our celebration this year, we tried things a little differently. Instead of dividing the student families up into the homes, we had all of the students gather at the Dining Hall here on campus. Students sat at their family table. They made a poster, writing down all the things they were thankful for and then colored it as a family. Students also received a Christmas ornament on which they each wrote their names.
There was much laughter and talking throughout the early evening. After their poster was complete, they enjoyed dinner together. They enjoyed spending time with their family. After dinner, everyone played Bingo.
All in all, the night was a great success! The students left with gifts to take home for their families and food gift cards to use for their Thanksgiving celebration.
Easter Break began at 2 p.m. Most of our Lakota students have left to spend the weekend with family. We do have one break home open for seven students, ranging in age from 7 to 16 who will be staying here on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus. Three boys in one family have a younger brother in kindergarten, and their social worker asked if he might be able to stay here for Easter as well. It’s a chance for the children to all be together. It also gives their younger brother, who will likely join us at St. Joseph next year, to get a taste of the campus . Two different sets of houseparents will supervise for two days, and have planned fun activities .
Our Wellness Committee thought it would be fun for staff to start the break with a 5k walk and run and 10k bike ride. Employee’s families were invited to join in. We had around a hundred participants. This “first annual” generated enough interest to become a regular event. Before the walk Patrick, one of our houseparents, and member of the committee, gave us a pep talk. He reminded us that if we want to be good caregivers for others, it starts with self care. Some folks like competition, and ran or walked to beat a personal time goal. Others just enjoyed a nice stroll on a spring day, with their coworkers, family or a friend. Everyone received a t-shirt to remember the day, and our goal of living a good and healthy life.
Today we arrived home after a few days in Pittsburgh for donor appreciation luncheons. We met kind and wonderful people who are part of our St. Joseph’s tiyospaye – extended family. I lived in the Pittsburgh area for about a year when I was four, and visited friends there several times during my growing up years, but had never been to the city as an adult. We enjoyed walking around and exploring what the city had to offer. We walked through the campus of Duquesne University, and saw what classrooms and dorms look like at a University. It’s never too early to try to get our Native American youth thinking about college. As we walked through the cultural and entertainment district, I realized that I have never seen so much black and gold as the community really takes pride in their Pittsburgh Steelers, especially on a home football weekend.
Through the generosity of the Steelers and the Rooney family, our students got to go to the football game against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was my first NFL game as well, and for December, we were blessed with mild temperatures and a beautiful day for a game. We sat mid way up in the end zone, and all five of the Steelers’ touchdowns happened in our end of the field.
What I will remember even more than the game, was our visit to the practice facility. I’m fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes in most any business or organization. What impressed our students the most was the room home to the six Super Bowl trophies. What impressed me more, was all the “classrooms” in the facility. To succeed at such a high level takes not only conditioning and physical skill, but being able to learn and out think your opponent. It was a good lesson for our students, who both like sports, but also realize how important using their brain is.
At Friday’s luncheon, I reconnected with Joe, who was in the seminary with me during our high school years. He lives in the area and was a wonderful host as he took us up the cable car of the Duquesne Incline for a marvelous view of the city. A tour guide there took great pride in pointing out the history and achievements of the area, and we learned more about the French and Indian wars and General George Washington’s place in history.
On Saturday, we had another special guest. St. Pat used to be our principal and later oversaw Pastoral Care at St. Joseph’s Indian School. She is now back in her hometown of Pittsburgh was able to grace us with her company. Saturday night, 8th grader Merrill got a visit from his aunt, who drove five hours from her home base in New Jersey just to spend a few hours with him.