Guest Blogger: Julie L

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.

Fellowship, support and story telling

Over Thanksgiving break, we only have three students on campus in the break home. Everyone else has gone home for Thanksgiving weekend to be with family and relatives. Many parents and guardians came to campus to pick up their children, and stayed for lunch. By the official 2:00 dismissal time, many of our students had started the journey home, since some live as many as five hours away. We were thankful for the sunshine and good weather that allowed for trouble-free travels.

The SCJs from the area parishes gathered at the SCJ house on St. Joseph’s campus today for an early Thanksgiving meal. They will be spread out for masses tomorrow, and this was a relaxing time to spend in fellowship, support and story telling. The offices and homes will be closed until Sunday afternoon.

Family activity night

Tonight, the Family Service Counselors organized Family Activity Night in preparation for next week’s Thanksgiving break. We will have a few students staying in a break home those days, but the majority of children will return home to celebrate with family for a few days.

The dining hall was filled with students and houseparents, 33 tables in all. Instead of being grouped by grades as they do at lunch, or the home groups that the students are in for supper, tonight the tables were grouped by siblings and cousins. Each group worked on cards and posters to take home to family to brighten their holiday. Through generous donations, we were also able to include some gift cards to grocery stores close to where the families live, especially since we know a lot of the folks can use the help with many mouths to feed.

We had some Christmas ornaments, gold colored with the St. Joseph’s logo. Each child carefully penned their name so their relatives could proudly hang it on their Christmas tree when the time comes. After a shared meal, we got out the bingo cards. You would have thought those who won a bottle of Gatorade or one of the movie tickets had won a huge jackpot. All in good fun.

Guest Blogger: Dianne

Hi, my name is Dianne—I am Administrative Assistant in the school— and I just thought I would catch you up on what is going on at St. Joseph’s Indian School!

We are in the fourth week of the second quarter of school—just a couple of weeks until Thanksgiving Break, and midterm is a week away.  This year has gone by so fast, but time flies when you’re having fun!

And fun we have had … Halloween was so much fun for all the students and staff. A good portion of the school was dressed up in their costumes for the day and after school everyone went trick or treating here on campus.  I, myself, came as a rock star!  Many of the offices and all of the homes have had Halloween treats to share.  At the end of trick or treating, the Rec Center has a grand march and costume judging contest.  There are so many innovative costumes to see!  It really is fun to watch!

We are very busy here at school with our regular schedule of classes and many extracurricular activities also.  Today, we have two girls basketball games—one here at St. Joseph’s and one away.

Service Plan Meetings are being held, which are much like Teacher/Parent Conferences and are held twice per year. These include the teacher, the parent/guardian, the family service counselor, the houseparent and the student themselves.

This week we will have our Honor Roll Assemblies for first quarter.  Our prizes have arrived and they will be given out to those on the A and B Honor Roll and those with Perfect/Outstanding Attendance for first quarter.  I think the students will love what we ordered for them—notebooks and bookmarks with Native American designs. They are quite beautiful!  I also have made their certificates on award paper with Native American designs.

We have a lot to accomplish before Thanksgiving Break, which seems to be just around the corner.  It will be a good time for staff and students alike to take a little break from all the daily schoolwork and teaching to regroup and be ready to begin refreshed when we return.

Thanks for all your support to aid us in what we do for our Native American students!

National Family Week Project

National Family Week is an annual celebration observed during the week of Thanksgiving that celebrates the family and its value to society.

These siblings made beautiful cards to take home to their family.
These siblings made beautiful cards to take home to their family.

St. Joseph’s Indian School has recognized and celebrated national family week for over a decade.  With the assistance of the Shakopee Tribe, we are able to provide $30 worth of food to each of our families.  For the convenience of our families, food cards are purchased in advance and distributed to parent/guardians as they pick their child(ren) up for Thanksgiving break.   These cards empower families to shop independently for necessary items to complete their Thanksgiving meals.  When families have higher needs or find themselves in a difficult position over the holidays, St. Joseph’s staff assesses the situation and makes recommendations for further assistance.  For example, this year one single, working mother’s financial resources were spread so thin that the return of her two children for Thanksgiving created a larger grocery bill then she could provide.  St. Joseph’s was able to provide an additional food box filled with staples such as dry cereal and canned goods.

While food cards are greatly appreciated by our families, they are only one piece of our family week celebration.  One week before the students departed for break, sibling groups were brought together for one hour to create and decorate items for their families.  Each sibling group customized a card of THANKS and a I AM THANKFUL FOR … sheet.  While parent/guardians and other family members enjoy reading these cards and treasure them, I believe that the students’ energy around this night is the highlight of the week!  Older siblings will join younger siblings in their homes, while sometimes younger siblings join older siblings in their homes.  Regardless of the combination, sibling groups are together – laughing, giving hugs and talking about things that they are thankful for.

This year a larger group gathered in the Perky Home to shared stories about each other and their family.
This year a larger group gathered in the Perky Home to shared stories about each other and their family.

This year, I was in the Perky Home where a larger group gathered to shared stories about each other and their family.  As the younger kids looked at and talked with their older brother and sisters, their admiration and excitement was obvious!  Older siblings began to delegate coloring projects and ask the younger siblings what they were thankful for, one couldn’t help but smile as the groups worked and laughed together.

This group of sisters had such a great time during National Family Week!
This group of sisters had such a great time during National Family Week!

I also joined the Stevens Home, where a group of four sisters not only worked together, but also played together.  After wrapping up their projects, they posed for pictures, allowing their personalities to shine through.  Following pictures, they joined their cousins in the TV room where they all played “Just Dance” and enjoyed each other’s company.

A reflection upon National Family Week, always helps me to remember how truly blessed we are at St. Joseph’s Indian School …

What blessings are you most thankful for

Our Lakota (Sioux) students are streaming in this evening as Thanksgiving break comes to an end. Most are now at the Rec Center where the boys Inter City basketball games are in full swing. We now have just three more weeks of school before Christmas break and I’m sure the time is going to be filled with many activities and also fly by quickly.

Our weather remained sunny and dry this past week which made travel for the families and guardians worry free. On Wednesday, the “official” time for school to dismiss for Thanksgiving break was 2:00, but when I got to the school around 1:45 the largest classroom had just three students left. With so many of the students families spread across all of South Dakota, parents and guardians showed up throughout the day at the times that worked for them. We have a group of over 20 students from the Rosebud Indian reservation, which is two hours distant. The tribe sends a bus to transport them back and forth over the holidays. That bus showed up around 10:00. Many families came around noon and were invited to the dining hall to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey and all the trimmings.

Several students stayed on campus during the vacation. We have a couple of break homes for students who need to or prefer to be here these days – 9 students in the grade school break home and another half-dozen in the high school program. I stopped in every now and again to check if houseparents needed anything and see how the students were doing. The high school students were mostly involved with basketball practice. The grade school home had lots more fun activities, like a trip to Mitchell, South Dakota (70 miles away) to see a movie. There was also plenty of times for recreation in the home. Samantha and Aralyn taught me how to play Wii tennis on the TV screen – and thrashed me thoroughly of course.

Our homes are normally split between boys and girls homes. In the break home there’s a different dynamic as three families with brothers and sisters were together under one roof. They enjoyed sitting next to each other at table, and spending time with younger siblings.

On Thanksgiving Day, I drove 25 miles north to Fort Thompson on the Crow Creek Indian reservation to go to mass. Afterward, Sr. Charles cooked a turkey and invited people from the community to bring what they could to add to a pot-luck celebration. It was especially nice for those elders who may have been on their own otherwise to have company to eat with, visit and celebrate.

This year I am most thankful that I’ve been able to resume my normal routine of work; I’m glad the cancer is still in remission. What blessings are you most thankful for?

Here I am with the St. Joseph's Indian School float in the background.
Here I am with the St. Joseph's Indian School float in the background.

On Black Friday, the city of Chamberlain sponsored a Parade of Lights downtown. The evening started with a free chili supper at the Fire Hall. Santa greeted us as we rolled in. With the parade theme, “The 12 Days of Christmas” St. Joseph sponsored a float of, “A partridge in a pear tree.” Our break home students rode on walked alongside the float. Instead of candies, they passed out dreamcatcher keychains. Maybe not as tasty, but practical and longer lasting.

My fingers are sore from writing staff Christmas cards, which I have spent significant time doing while the office and school have been closed. Instead of just signing my name I try to write a few personal words to each person who works here. I am so grateful for the dedicated staff here at St. Joseph’s Indian School who do so much for our students. While running a residential school with 200 students is a big job, when each do their part, it somehow–thanks be to God–all comes together.