Her face beamed with delight

The William Home girls (4th-5th grade) held their annual holiday open house. The houseparents must have practiced some of questions with the girls so they could be good hostesses and work on social skills. Throughout my visit several of the girls asked me:

  • May I take your coat?
  • Are you comfortable?
  • Can I get you anything else?
  • How was your day?

From the moment they took my coat until the time I left, they were most gracious. Frederika sliced the cheese and sausage and wanted to know if it looked crooked. Trinity wondered how the cookies tasted since she baked them. One of the girls was featured on this year’s Christmas cards, and her face beamed with delight when I brought her a pile to share with her family and friends.

Learning through life

I stopped by the computer lab to wish Gina, our Computer Teacher, a happy birthday. This is her first year, and she’s been monitoring the websites our students have access to. We’ve constantly worked at firewalls to block access to objectionable sites. On a positive note, she’s structuring our school web access so the students are directed to more academically enriching sites. Formerly when given time to surf, the students would mostly go to game sites. When some of their favorite sites didn’t work any more, they asked why!? Gina told them there are a lot more educational ways to spend time on the computer than only playing Mario Brothers. Begrudgingly, they kids are getting used to the “Gina rules” and hopefully using the computer time to enhance what they’re learning in the other classes.

After finishing up 2 ½ days of testing, the students with perfect attendance got to walk the mile to the downtown movie theater to see an afternoon matinee. The weather was perfect for the outing.

HR is busy with hiring boards, interviews and checking out references. Last week, we hired a new 8th grade teacher with a solid math background and a new houseparent, who will start next fall in the younger grade homes. Today I met another houseparent candidate from Michigan who is here for an interview.

Our tri-county area, which includes Chamberlain as well as the Lower Brule and Crow Creek Indian reservations, is planning to build a memorial to area veterans near the Interstate exit and overlooking the beautiful Missouri River. One of the organizers visited with me today to share more information and to ask for our help in promoting the project. Besides our many staff and students who have honorably served our country, there are actually quite a few priests and brothers who worked here over the years who were veterans before they chose to enter religious life.

Brother Steve Cyr SCJ  (died in 2003, the Cyr Home is named after) was a squad sergeant in the difficult battle of Monte Cassino in WWII. He said,

“I promised God that if He saw fit to let me survive that, when the war ended, I would become a religious and give my life in service.”

He worked at St. Joseph’s Indian School for 42 years, and admirably fulfilled that promise. We’re considering ways that we might honor and remember people like Brother Steve through this project.

I finished the evening by joining the Hogebach (high school girls) Home for supper. On the message board by the front door was a large “20” indicting the number of school days left at Chamberlain High School. Our three seniors in that home have even less. They’re getting very excited, but also having bad cases of “senioritis” and need regular reminders not to procrastinate and get caught up in missing assignments.

Many of these young women will be on campus for part of the summer, for driver’s ed or to help with our Rising Eagle Summer Camps. Some will continue jobs in town or try some new employment to gain work experience and save up a few bucks to help them realize future plans and goals. Just as summer is just around the corner, it won’t be long before the juniors in the home enter their final year of studies here.

An update from Facilites

Native American boy smiles big for the camera.
Gavin can't wait to see the new homes!

The Facilities Department at St. Joseph’s Indian School is still busy working on their primary project of renovating the Stevens and Mathias Homes.  The crew continues to make great progress and should be on schedule to complete the project on time.

The Stevens Home is getting closer to completion.  We are currently installing carpet throughout the upstairs bedrooms, and the floor tile is finished on both levels.  We consider the Stevens Home to be about 90% done.

As different areas are completed on the Stevens side of the home, the crew transfers over to the Mathias side.  We are currently finished with texturing the walls and will be starting to paint on the Mathias side next week.

Do you walk in heaven?

We have finally gotten our expected winter snows and cold spell. The schools in town had a two-hour late start, but with all our Native American students right here on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus, we began as usual. While most of us grumble at the cold and endure, the kids who got new sleds for Christmas are very excited and were out in force on the slope leading down to the football field after school today.

When I stopped by Religion Class for the 1st grade, Basil asked me,

“Do you walk in heaven?”

I replied,

“Not yet, but hopefully one day.”

I’m never sure what kind of images go through the mind of a seven-year old. At least they’re not embarrassed to ask the questions that do come to mind, which is refreshing and prompts me to look more closely at my beliefs.

We had 12 of our 39 high school students make the first semester honor roll at Chamberlain High School. Many others came close and certainly improved their GPA from last year. Congratulations to the students who put in the study hours, and those staff who’ve worked so hard to point (and sometimes push) them in the right direction.

We’re starting to work on budgets, and one of the first tasks is to look ahead at all the building and maintenance issues that would be included in capital expenses. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are able make changes on campus each year. We always do regular upgrades and maintenance, but every year need to discern what buildings and equipment have been fixed and repaired so often that they need either replacement or a total renovation. We start out with a big wish list, then have to prioritize and make some decisions based on the rest of our programs budgetary needs.

While we just started the new semester two weeks ago, we’re already working ahead and trying to firm up next year’s school calendar. What makes it tricky is that while our high school students attend the Chamberlain public school, we are never quite on the same schedule. We have more days of school, trying to give our students more time for mastery of their academic subjects. We don’t take off many federal holidays during the school year. Even during the breaks and vacations, we often have break homes to accommodate students who want or need to stay on campus. Luckily Karla is an able administrator able to keep up with those details and give us some solid drafts to consider.