Halloween festivities

This morning our high school staff hosted a farewell breakfast in the Hogebach Home for Shana, who has directed the High School Program for the past five years. Her husband got a promotion that moved the family to a different part of the state. In her time as director here, she and her staff found ways to increase our student GPA and retention rates, and see more go on to college. We plan to build on those successes and continue developing the programs and ideas she implemented. All the best to you in your new endeavors Shana!

Happy Halloween!
Happy Halloween!

Halloween is one of the most exciting days to be a kid, especially when you get to dress up in costume all day. I toured the school and previewed the attire our Lakota students picked out for this whimsical holiday. Several of the teachers and staff also got into the spirit of the day and wore colorful and creative outfits, including Kathleen our principal, whose face was painted to make her look like a cat. After the initial giggles died down, everyone got down to work, and the quizzes, experiments and reading went on as normal.

There was no study hall as teachers went easy on tonight’s homework, so classes could dismiss a half hour early. Students put the finishing touches on their costumes and grabbed a bag for trick or treating. My office was one of several stops around campus. Those of us who work in central offices coordinate treats with our dining hall so we have some variety, and so the treats are fun but have some nutritional value. I passed out fruit roll ups. I wore a Fred Flintstone outfit, and with reruns of the classics, about half the kids knew who I was. The other half were fascinated by the big feet that came along with the costume.

We have two medical students from the University of South Dakota spending a few days on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus for a cross cultural experience. We put them to work right away lining up children for the costume contest. We gathered in the Rec Center where the students were split into categories of funniest, scariest and most creative according to each age group of homes. I wasn’t one of the judges this year, but one of my favorites was Bryante, a first grader dressed like Tinkerbelle. The judges agreed too, and she won first place. My favorite staff ensemble was a Little Mermaid trio, with two of our staff as Ursula and King Triton, and their daughter as Ariel.

Several families took part in the festivities, then checked their child out to take them trick or treating in town. A few of the homes, especially with younger kids, also made some rounds in town, since that’s part of the fun and allure of Halloween. At the end of the day, houseparents collect all the candy and treats so our students will snack a little at a time over the next couple of weeks.

Guest Blogger: Claire

Ahhhh, Halloween.  It is a great day to flirt with the things that scare us the most, and poke a little fun at the dark side of life.  In other words, it’s just another typical day in St. Joseph’s High School Program.

I kicked off my Halloween season with parent teacher conferences at Chamberlain High School last Thursday.  I really did not need to be afraid.   I sat at a table marked “Giles Home” with a printout of my 10 students.   One by one, the CHS teachers came by to talk about students’ progress in their classes.  We keep close track of missing assignments and grades, so there weren’t any surprises.  I heard the usual feedback that students do well on daily work but struggle on tests.  The individual remarks were very heartening though.

“He’s a great kid.”

“He seems very interested in the subject.”

“He contributes a lot to discussions.”

“He has terrific penmanship.”

The Giles Home climbing Harney Peak.
The Giles Home climbing Harney Peak.

The following day, the Giles Home departed on a long weekend home trip to Rapid City.  We started out by climbing Harney Peak, the highest point in the Black Hills.  In the snow.  Who’s afraid of a 6 hour hike in the snow, right?  Who’s afraid of not keeping up with 10 guys with boundless energy and the skill of mountain goats?  Who’s afraid of not making it back down before dark and having to use an iPhone for a flashlight?


What we had to be afraid of was getting in their way at the chow line at Golden Corral afterwards.

The next day, we took them to Flags and Wheels, where they got to play go-karts, laser tag and bumper cars.  This would not be scary, except that houseparents Melissa, Aaron and I are veterans of the high school summer program.  We know that these guys are going to be in driver’s ed next year.   They demonstrated some serious demolition skills with those bumper cars.  Ruthless, I tell you!

Who thinks these boys are ready for drivers ed?!
Who thinks these boys are ready for drivers ed?!

And of course we had to go to a haunted house at the Rapid City fairgrounds.  Caden (Aaron and Melissa’s 8 year old son) set the tone by hugging the big scary monster that greeted us in the parking lot.

Aww, shucks, how scary could the Terror in the Dark house be?  Despite this rather benign first impression, two guys didn’t even make it past the second room before surrendering, “I’m out!!”  The rest of the rooms were a blur of blood-curdling shrieks, menacing monsters and guys clinging to each other for dear life.  I was NOT the only one screaming like a girl.  Yes, some days it is good to be terrorized by things that can’t actually hurt you.  Especially if you have good friends nearby to grab onto, and four reliable houseparents to make sure you get home safely.

Honestly, there are things that scare me a lot more than icy mountains, funhouse cars and latex monster masks.  Failing at things, for example.  I hate failing at things.  I go to insane lengths to make sure that projects and plans go off without a hitch.  So why am I so twitchy about Halloween this year?  Because I have handed the reins over to the high schoolers.

This is the first year of doing a high school Student Leaders Group.  As part of our mission to prepare the students for life after high school, we are turning over some tasks and responsibilities to the students themselves.  We have formed a leadership group with delegates from each of the homes.  I act as an advisor, but I’m not actually “in charge” of anything.  Right now, they are trying to pull off a Halloween party.

Leadership Group has had a rocky start.  The first activity they planned was a dodgeball game.  It did not happen.

The second task they chose was to write a persuasive letter to the HS director in order to change a rule that they didn’t like.  That took some coaching on my part.

“No, saying ‘the rule is stupid’ is not sufficient.”

One of the delegates turned in a thoughtful, clear and rational reason that the rule could be changed. Oh yeah!

No one else finished theirs though. Augh!

The last activity they planned, the Red Ribbon Relay Race (say that 10x fast!) was beset with commitment issues.  The leaders who came through worked very hard but ran into unforeseeable difficulties.  Can anyone really divide a bunch of half-frozen kids into small groups and convince them to run around in a circle?  Note to self: get a bigger megaphone.

It is the day of Halloween and we are still working on a plan for the party.  This is where that fear of failure raises its ugly head.  I have to resist the urge to take over and tell people what to do, or worse, do it myself.  Because the point of all of this is not to have an event go perfectly.  The purpose is for the students to make a plan, make adjustments, make concessions, make mistakes, make corrections and make the best of it.  My purpose is not to decide for them what is possible.  The purpose is for them to figure out what they are capable of doing.

We ended our planning session on a positive note.  Each delegate has a list of things s/he is responsible for.  They have a best-case plan and a back up plan in case that doesn’t work out.  A lot of this means them asking for what they want, and deciding what to do if they can’t have it. They have done an impressive job foreseeing obstacles and brainstorming solutions.

This means that they are moving away from accepting “No, that can’t be done,” and moving towards finding ways that it can be done.  Anyone who works with teens knows that this can be scary and exhilarating.

What if the kids start thinking for themselves and *gasp* start asking questions?  What kind of a monster have we awakened?!  Hopefully, some sort of quasi-adult, thoughtful monster.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Claire, High School Houseparent

Happy Halloween!
Happy Halloween!

Guest Blogger: Julie H.

Hello friends!  I hope today finds you all doing well!  My name is Julie H. and I am a Family Service Counselor at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  Things here are St. Joseph’s are going well!

This week we celebrated Red Ribbon Week and the kids were able to take part in lots of fun activities!  There were activities such as inflatables, ice cream sundaes, relays and theme days.  The kids always enjoy celebrating Red Ribbon Week!

The next celebration we are looking forward to is Halloween.  The kids are all gearing up for the fun and planning their costumes.  The students are able to trick-or-treat on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus and then we have a Halloween costume contest.  The students always enjoy this time of year!

Our 6-8 grade boys just finished up their football season and the 6-8 grade girls just finished up volleyball.  Now, the girls are gearing up for basketball and have started their practices.  Their first game is November 5 and they are very excited.  The 4th and 5th grade girls have also started basketball practice.  Basketball season is a favorite time of the year for both our boys and girls.  They enjoy the sport immensely, work hard, and show great sportsmanship.  It will be fun to watch them play!

As the weather grows cooler, we are also starting to get ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  What a wonderful time of year for our Lakota students!  It is always a joy to be able to celebrate these holidays with the students!  The students get a nice break for both holidays so they can return home and spend time with their families.

Another great thing happening today is FAST (Families and Schools Together) graduation.  This program brings families to campus to spend quality time with their children.  The program consists of a meal, family oriented activities, a time for parents to meet together and talk, and time for parents to just have fun with their children.  We have graduated over 100 families from this program.  Tonight we graduate seven more families!  This is a great time for the families to come and spend time with their kids and for the staff who work with the students to get a chance to know families a little better as well.

As always, I thank you all for your generous donations of prayer and financial assistance!  Without your help, we could not do the great work we do!  May God’s blessings be poured out on each and every one of you!

Julie H.

Trick or treat

After Christmas, Halloween is probably our kids’ favorite holiday.

Halloween fun at St. Joseph's Indian School.
Halloween fun at St. Joseph's Indian School.

When I made the rounds at school today, many of the students jumped at the chance to wear their costumes to class. Most of the boys went for the scary look, while the girls went for more glamorous looks, like princesses. There were some fun and creative costumes as well.  Staff got into it as well. At the chow line in the dining hall, Sponge Bob and Gumby dished out trays of food. My favorite was a group of 7 staff from central offices who dressed up in a Wizard of Oz motif. Besides Dorothy and Toto and their trusty companions, we also had a yellow brick road and a twister, portrayed by Julie, who is of course originally from Kansas.

After school, kids came around to the offices trick or treating. We coordinated efforts with food services to pick some healthier snack foods, and I gave Scooby Doo whole grain cinnamon snacks. In the evening, the homes that wanted to could also go around town for a bit.  The houseparents collected the treats at the end of the day and the students will get them a few at a time instead of bingeing over the next couple of days.

The Grand March was held in the rec center. Students were judges in three categories – funniest, scariest and most creative. Many pumpkins were also on display that had been creatively carved and painted. Besides individual prizes there were prizes for the collective decorating that went on outside the homes. Some earned free movie tickets to be enjoyed later.

A word from Fr. Anthony

Greetings once again from St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota.  Hope you all had a wonderful weekend.

Fr. Steve Huffstetter, SCJ was on the road again having the chance to visit family in Florida to take part in a Baptism.  While he was able to enjoy some personal time, it gives me the opportunity once again to share with you what happened over this past weekend.

We saw a lot of red on campus as St. Joseph’s Indian School’s annual Fall Sobriety “Red Ribbon Week” kicked off.  It is a program to help our American Indian students realize there are a variety of ways to get high on life that do not require turning toward drugs or drinking.  The students wore shirts carrying the saying, ‘My extreme commitment is living drug free’.  On Friday night, the rec center rang with oh’s, ah’s and shouts of laughter as several large inflatables were erected for the students to jump on, climb over and slide down.  There will be several special theme days this week: on ‘Drugs turn you inside out’ day the students are urged to wear their clothes inside out; on ‘Being drug free is no sweat’ they can wear sweat clothes to class; and on ‘Team up against drugs’ they are urged to wear a sport’s jersey.

Friday also was the end of the First Quarter at Chamberlain High School.  The mid-term grades hinted there might be a new name on the trophy our high school homes contend for.  The Hogebach Home has been the defending champion, but it looks like Sheehy Home might beat them out by a narrow percentage.  We’ll have to see if the grades hold up.  Several students were working hard to achieve 4.0 grade points.  It seems to highlight a renewed interest in academics.

The members of the football team received some exciting news that they qualified for the South Dakota state play-offs.  Though they had a tough season, they played tough teams which enabled them to have enough power points to qualify.  We have four young men on the team, one of our young ladies is a member of the cheerleader squad and another student is the Cub mascot.  They will be playing Little Wound on Tuesday.

The high school also qualified several for the cross-country championships which were held this past weekend in Sioux Falls.  The girls’ team came in 5th out of sixteen teams.  Two of the teams have St. Joseph ties.  Talia, who moved up from JV to Varsity, and the daughter of one of our staff were part of the team.  They have a strong tradition of cross-country at CHS which ought to continue since several key members of the team return again next year.

On Sunday, the inter-city boys’ basketball season kicked off.  This program is geared to offer an activity for the 6th, 7th and 8th grade young men of St. Joseph’s and the Chamberlain area to play basketball and get to know each other while the girls’ season is underway.  Then when the boys have their season, after Christmas, the girls will have the chance to take part in the inter-city program for them.  This is the first year that 6th graders are able to take part and, as they may not get a lot of playing time, the rec center staff decided that at half time sixth graders will have a five-minute quarter just to themselves.

With Halloween on the horizon, our youth are looking forward to the activities for that.  There will be trick-or-treating here on campus and the high school students have a dance, movies and games at the high school.  The students here on campus will have a grand march in the rec center with prizes given for best costumes.

Have a great week.  May the Great Spirit continue to bless you and yours.  We are always grateful for your generosity and keep you and your intentions in our prayers.  Until next time.

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


St. Joseph’s Indian School