Spring has sprung at St. Joseph’s Indian School

Spring has sprung and the campus at St. Joseph’s Indian School is coming alive!  The kids have returned from their Easter break  and now look toward the end of the school year. With the warmer temperatures the students are spending as much time outside as they can!  There are a great many activities going on for our students, tee-ball, softball, soccer and track to name a few.  The students stay busy and and their teachers, houseparents and support staff are always there supporting and cheering them on in all of their activities !

What does the end of school year mean for the Clinical Services Department?  Well, we spend the rest of the school year helping the kids stay focused on school and helping the older students finalize plans for driver’s education, summer employment, INMED (Indians in Medicine), Gear Up and plans for next year. We also work with our eighth grade students to  to prepare them for high school.

As spring gives way to summer, we will start working on new student admissions for next school year. The Family Service Counselors travel in the summer to visit our students and meet new prospective students and families. Traveling around the state to visit with old and new students  is always a great part of the summer.

As another year begins to wind down, I am thankful for the time I have been able to spend with our Native American students. The students get excited to go home and be with their families, but hopefully they know we will miss them while they are away for the summer!

The simple things in life

Today at church we had our final Rite of Christian Initiation ceremony for the students preparing for baptism, which we will celebrate April 15. Participants and their families are making preparations and getting excited.

Nice weather over the weekend means that we’re getting started with activities often pushed off until April and May. Once our American Indian students came back from spring break, all the bikes came out of winter hibernation, and the campus was full of pedal pushers. Some of the homes, like Ambrose (1st-3rd  grade boys) rode off in a supervised bike brigade into town to the local park. The soccer nets are coming out and rubber softball bases are spread over the football field.

Many of our teenage readers were excited that Chamberlain’s movie theater got the movie “The Hunger Games” for opening weekend. I myself read and enjoyed the series, though it is very heavy and thought-provoking. Friday night at the early show I sat next to a large group of our junior high homes, and when we exited the theater, ran into many high school students waiting for the late showing. One fringe benefit of living in a small town is they don’t charge big city movie prices. The movie ticket, soda and box of popcorn ran me a grand total of $7.25, and the movie theater actually gives our students a further discount.

Two couples graced my Saturday. While I was eating lunch, Pink and Edwina from the parish I used to serve in Promise, South Dakota, were in the area to visit their daughter and dropped by to surprise me with a visit. As a brand new priest, they were a widow and widower in their mid 50’s, with grown kids about my age. When they decided to get married, they came to me for preparation, and I felt humbled by their years of marital experience compared to my just-out-of seminary-knowledge about the sacrament. Still, I just facilitated their talking about many issues, and we had a simple but lovely ceremony when all was ready.

The second couple are college seniors, preparing for their marriage this summer. They bring a whole different set of questions, hopes and dreams for their marriage. I don’t do as much of that kind of preparation and ministry as when I was a full-time parish priest, but do enjoy getting to know couples and celebrating with them those special, unforgettable times in their life.

As I walked by the playground and toward the office, some students on the playground waved me down and called me over. The Dennis Home (1st -3rd grade girls) and Raphael Home (1st– 3rd grade boys) were having a picnic at American Creek park that night and invited me to join them. How can you turn down food, fun and an invite from an 8-year-old?

I couldn’t stay for the whole time, but we tossed footballs around, pushed swings, walked on the balancing logs and after a satisfying meal, got out marshmallows and roasted them on sticks. I haven’t done that for some time. Kids remind me of how fun and meaningful the simple things in life can be.

Rec Center activities

Our last Enrichment night before spring break with the Afra and Dennis Homes (first through third-grade girls) was filled with the sound of the bat hitting the ball. We were inside playing whiffleball!

First, we had the girls throw and catch to warm up and improve those skills. Then, we played a game of whiffleball. The girls really were hustling and the score was close all the way to the end! Thanks to Sherry, Christine, Peter and Mike for all their help and cheering.

The boys from the Rooney and Speyer Homes (sixth through eighth-grade boys) tried their hand at a Hot Shot contest, which is a basketball shooting game. The first two rounds were one minute long and the top six shooters from each home played a third round of 30 seconds.

The Championship Round came down to Kyle and Jeremy, who each won a prize as the top shooters from their homes. After 1 minute and 30 seconds of shooting, Jeremy finished on top 30 – 18. Many thanks to Nate and Tony for keeping score, Mark for keeping the clock and Brian and Sue for cheering the boys to do their best!

Next week, when everyone is back from spring break, we will get back in the swing of Enrichment night. Hopefully, we will be outside playing t-ball and softball!

Mark and Andy

I gave up a few home runs

Eighteen of our staff spent the morning together for the latest stage of our strategic planning process. The question that led to the most animated discussion had to do with our focus. How much emphasis is put on school and academics, and how much focus needs to be on the clinical treatment needs of our students? Of course both are important as we try to serve the students in a holistic way. Some of our students are gifted and talented, and are to be encouraged to strive for excellence. Others come to us below grade level, and we try to nurture them to make steady progress. Because students often come from difficult backgrounds, we find ways to help them heal life’s hurts. We don’t really have the luxury of choosing one or the other but do our best to respond to children in need.

Nick and Shawn are our two high school boys chosen to represent St. Joseph’s Indian School at our June donor luncheons in Chicago. With only a couple of weeks left of school, it’s been hard to find time to practice when both of them available, but we were able to meet this afternoon and get them started. They were hard on themselves when I asked how they did, but it gave them a chance to see what they need to think about and what they want to say. They’re both very excited about being in such a big city.

I began taking a walk around campus this evening to enjoy the wonderful weather. When I walked by the 4th and 5th grade softball game, I was offered the chance to pitch for a few innings. I pitched for both teams and didn’t play favorites, but when the game was finished and I found out that Furies won their first game of the whole season; I was happy for them. When that game was over, I continued my stroll and came to the field where the 6th– 8th graders were competing and I threw a few innings there too. In slow pitch, I’m pretty good at throwing strikes, so I kept laying it in there and batters hit away. I gave up a few home runs, but didn’t mind at all. There were some good defensive plays behind me, and the game kept moving along. Being out in the fresh air with the students had an invigorating effect.