Lots going on

The girls had so much fun dancing like dolls!
The girls had so much fun dancing like dolls!

During mass, we held the Rite of Acceptance for those students preparing for baptism next spring. Even though the prayers are simple, they mean a lot . I find that children are often far more committed to prayer than I am, and they inspire me to do better.

The Dancing Dolls and Dudes program filled the town Armory to capacity and was entertaining. Last year, we experimented by having our 4th and 5th graders participate, since it means juggling our schedule here and getting the students to town to practice each week. But it was so successful and appreciated that this year we opened it up to the primary grades as well.

A good number of families attended to cheer their children on and watch the cleverly choreographed routines. But  some of our students don’t have family close by, or have family members unable to come. In the days leading up to today’s big show, at least seven or eight of our students looked at me with big eyes and asked if I could be there. How could I every say no to that kind of  request from an eight year old?

The greatspirit of fun and good sportsmanship fill St. Joseph's Indian School's gym!
The greatspirit of fun and good sportsmanship fill St. Joseph's Indian School's gym!

The boys inter-city championships filled the rec center all afternoon. Each team had two trophies to give out, one to a St. Joseph’s Indian School student and one to a player from town. Those trophies go to the kids who have the best attitude, play hard and fair and help their teammates. There was also a hard-fought tournament for bragging rights, but all in a spirit of fun and good sportsmanship.

Tonight, our high school academic advisor gathered up the half-dozen students who make up our Knowledge Bowl team. Competition at the Lakota Nations Invitational is this Thursday and Friday, and this was the last chance to practice and review. I dropped in for some moral support and will go with the crew to Rapid City, South Dakota to cheer them on. Read how the St. Joseph’s Indian School team did last year!


Challenging our youth to excel

After two days away from the office, today was one of those days of catching up with paperwork, but more importantly getting around campus and seeing what everyone has been up to.

After school, I saw lots of the younger kids from the Benedictine Homes out riding bikes and jumping rope. The junior high girls at the Pinger Home had raked the falling leaves into piles. At first I admired their willingness to tidy the yard up, but when Mailana surprised me by jumping up from underneath the pile, I realized they had ulterior motives. But, play and fun is a worthwhile motive too!

I shot some baskets at Fisher Home (6th – 8th grade boys) and stayed for supper. The talk around the supper table was mostly about football, but I did get them to talk occasionally about school and family and other topics.

Since I enjoy sports, it is a nice ice breaker, but I want to get to know more about the students than who their favorite team is.

Tonight all four high school homes gathered for the midterm GPA (grade point average) announcement. Each quarter, we award a traveling trophy to the home with the highest average, and for a full year the Hogebach Home (junior & senior girls) have had a lock on the glittery hardware. In a big upset, the Sheehy boys pulled ahead 3.28 to 3.26, and will have bragging rights for at least a few months. I must say however, that the girls are now highly motivated to reclaim the prize.

Overall, our high school homes GPA is up almost .50 points over last year. They need to keep it up until the end of the semester of course, but this is a good start. We’re trying to create a school culture where good students are not made fun of, but kids are striving to do well. That has taken some doing, but hopefully we’re moving in the right direction. In December, there is also an academic competition against other Native American schools at the Lakota Nations Invitational, and we’ve got more students applying for that team than ever before. Thanks to our houseparents, tutors and counselors for challenging our youth to excel.