Mike, St. Joseph's President

Mike, St. Joseph’s President

It was one of those moments that you are fortunate to experience… like so many others over the past 30 years. I am frequently reminded that the mission at the heart of our work at St. Joseph’s Indian School is truly a blessing for all who are open to it!

It started with our yearly Christmas Store, held on December 12 this year.  Like many other caring staff, I volunteered to assist as our students select Christmas gifts for their family members.  The Christmas Store comes about because of the generosity of so many.  Students are able to select gifts for their siblings and family members.  It is an opportunity to give someone a present that they might not otherwise have.

Throughout the day, some staff help students pick out gifts. Others, like me, volunteer to help wrap presents. There’s music playing and Santa Claus is here. St. Joseph’s high school students even assist the younger students.  It is a lot of fun!

After assisting a couple of students in wrapping their presents, there was a short break between groups… And there it sat on a table full of wrapping paper.

It was a letter to Santa Claus.

I was not sure where it came from, but it had all the magic that a letter to Santa should have. It had a few misspellings and imperfect penmanship, just as a child’s letter should.  But it was magic nonetheless. It asked for gifts for her siblings, and she had drawn a few pictures.

But mostly, I was struck by the spirit of the letter! Simply stated, this child was given the opportunity to ‘Believe’ in the magic of Christmas.

With this being the Christmas Season, I find there are a number of Christmas movies that give one perspective. In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Baily sees a world without himself in it!  This led me to the question, what would the world be like without St. Joseph’s Indian School? What if we did not have so many generous supporters? What kind of Christmas would our students and their families have?

How would their lives be impacted? 

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Student letter to Santa.

Thirty years ago, my wife and I were fortunate to come to St. Joseph’s Indian School. Back then, the plan was to take a year and see if we could make a difference.  And what we have 30 years later is a lifetime full of memories and many instances where the Mission impacted us far more than we impacted the Mission.  So what George Baily realized, I too realized.  How truly lucky I am to be part of this wonderful Mission that is St. Joseph’s Indian School. 

That student letter was a simple reminder of the magic that is in the hearts of our students, their families, the staff and our supporters. It is you, our supporters, and your generosity that allows the Spirit of the Mission to thrive each and every day on our campus.  And it is during this important Christmas Season that your generosity is most apparent in the eyes of the children we serve!

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! The Spirit is alive!  God Bless!

Mike, St. Joseph’s President

 

Julie, Admissions

Julie, Admissions

Hello, our names are Celia and Julie and we oversee the Children Count Mentor Program at St. Joseph’s Indian School. The mentor program was established in 2001 to match a Lakota student with a positive adult staff member.
The goal of the program is to establish a positive relationship between adults and children, and to have a positive impact on Native American youth by actively

Celia, Residential Coordinator

Celia, Residential Coordinator

participating in their lives. These relationships can help children compensate for early experiences and protect them from the influences of social toxicity, negative peer groups and media violence.
Currently, we have 44 student/adult mentor matches. This year we even started some family matches so we could get more students involved. We have three family groups matched with either single staff

or married couples this year. We also have two staff members who took on the challenge of being matched with two students.
Students at St. Joseph’s are referred to the mentor program by their Family Service Counselor because they lack one-on-one contact with an adult – they may not have a family member who can check them out for an evening or weekend, or because they would benefit from a positive relationship with adults who actively participates in their lives.

 

We have three family groups matched with either single staff or married couples this year.

Mike and Jean mentor four brothers.

The mentor committee hosts five several events throughout the school year. We tried some new events this year. This included a hockey game and trip to a corn maze as well as our main events, picnics and Christmas get together. Everyone had a great time!
In addition to these organized events, staff spend 2-6 hours per month individually with their match. Some activities that students enjoy with their mentors are going out to eat, attending local sporting events, going for walks, making cookies and doing crafts, just to name a few.
Thank you for your support of this great program!

Julie & Celia

Mentor Committee

Mentor matches provide the Lakota students a positive role model in their lives.

Delores and Kaelyn love spending time together!

Hello, our names are Celia and Dee and we oversee the Children Count Mentor Program at St. Joseph’s Indian School. The mentor program was established in 2001 to match a Lakota student with a positive adult staff member.
The goal of the program is to establish a positive relationship between adults and children, and to have a positive impact on Native American youth by actively participating in their lives. These relationships can help children compensate for early experiences and protect them from the influences of social toxicity, negative peer groups and media violence.
Currently, we have 48 student/adult mentor matches.
Students at St. Joseph’s are referred to the mentor program by their counselor because they lack one-on-one contact with an adult – they may not have a family member who can check them out for an evening or weekend – or because they would benefit from a positive relationship with adults who actively participates in their lives.
The mentor committee hosts five events throughout the school year. Some of these events include a picnic, movie night, roller-skating, a Christmas get-together and bowling.
Everyone has a great time!
In addition to these organized events, staff spend 2-6 hours per month individually with their match. Some activities that students enjoy with their mentors are going out to eat, attending local sporting events, going for walks, making cookies and doing crafts, just to name a few.
Thank you for your support of this great program!

Happy Holidays from the William Home!

Each year, we host an open house and invite our teachers, mentors and other staff that work with our kids to come over and have some Christmas goodies. This is a great chance for the girls to show off their home and use their social skills and manners in a larger setting.

Kira grabs a loose ball in her last basketball game!

Great hustle Kira!

We just completed our fourth and fifth grade basketball season and the girls went out with a victory in their last game at a tournament in town.  This was such a fun bunch to spend time with! It was great to be able to watch the different skills we try to coach begin to appear in the games.  At this age, we spend a majority of our time in practice working on basic skills and how to play the game properly from dribbling the basketball, to sportsmanship on and off the court.

The girls also had the opportunity today to go through the Christmas store and pick out gifts for their families.  After that, they went to see Santa, wrap their presents and enjoy some treats.

We have also continued our walking program with the girls. We are happy to announce that we are currently at a total of 10,789 laps in the gym, which is a little over 500 miles!

From the William Home, may you all have a very Merry Christmas and all your travels be safe!

Lots of activity on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus today. Despite freezing rain and treacherous icy roads, Chamberlain’s Chamber of Commerce hosted fourth, fifth and sixth grade girls basketball tournaments at the three gyms throughout town. St. Joseph’s hosted the sixth grade action. All of our teams got in three games to end the season. None of them won the championship, but all hustled and played hard.

Fr. Steve and Trenton chat at St. Joseph's Indian School's Christmas store.

Trenton and Fr. Steve talking about what he wrapped up for his family.

Today’s big event was the Christmas Store. All the children had a handful of tickets which they could use to “purchase” different items that donors have sent in. They picked up sweaters for grandpa and clothes for a baby sister, necklaces for mom or a stuffed animal for a younger brother. Once they loaded up their plastic garbage bags with a dozen items or so, they came to the skate room, where Santa Claus waited to greet them, and generous volunteers helped them wrap all the presents to take home and share with their loved ones. Staff also baked lots of Christmas goodies for snacks throughout the day. Each of the nineteen homes had about 20 minutes to do their shopping before the next group came in. The kids are excited and look forward to it, and staff enter into the spirit of the season. Several high school students also helped decorate the room and wrap presents, teaching them to give back to their younger relatives.

Tonight the Chamberlain Area Churches Choir performed a lovely Christmas Cantata in our Chapel. I sat next to the Rooney Home boys (6th-8th grades) but didn’t see any other Lakota students in the church. I was feeling bad that more of the kids couldn’t enjoy the lively harmonies and inspiring message. The Cantata was close to our primary students’ bedtime, so I understood. But then, I heard clapping coming from the choir loft. There was a lively group upstairs, wearing pajamas and bath robes, so they could go right from church to bedtime when all was finished!

There are advantages to having lots of connecting walk ways on our campus. And the choir seemed tickled and appreciative that our students were able to participate.

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.

Placing the finished box of staff Christmas cards on Carma’s desk in payroll gave me a feeling of freedom. I could just sign my name and be done quickly, but I try to write a personal note to each because everyone here has an important role to play in making a difference in the lives of our Lakota students. I feel blessed and grateful to be surrounded by so many passionate, creative, hard working folks with lots of ideas and the knack for following through to make things happen. My next task will have to be attending to the incoming pile of Christmas cards growing on my desk . We hear from lots of donors this time of year, and I’m humbled by their generosity.

Last night the five high school homes had their community meeting and announced who gets possession of the traveling academic trophies. The boys of Carola Home not only retained the trophy for the least missing assignment, but passed the Hogebach girls for the highest GPA. Hogebach had the trophy on a shelf near their dining room table. When I walked by the boys home this morning, I saw both trophies sitting in the window, out there for everyone to notice. That kind of pride and competition is OK in my book, and hope that our Native American students continue to push each other to learn and grow to their potential.

Hello and welcome back!  I’m Cindy and I blogged in October about the many things that take place at the beginning of the school year.  I like to think that it is the busiest time of the year but it has not slowed down at all!

We are just returning from Thanksgiving Break (where did the time go?) and the students are starting to look forward to Christmas (and break: hooray!) that will be coming up in a few weeks.

Most of our students were able to go home for the Thanksgiving Break.  The day before Thanksgiving is a chaotic, but fun-filled day.  The student’s guardians all come and pick them up at the school.  The Dining Hall puts on a delicious lunch for them to enjoy.  Many of them have been coming to St Joseph’s for many years and it is fun to catch up on their lives.

We do have a few students that stay on campus during this time.  They are housed in what we refer to as the “break home.”  Their time is filled with fun activities such as shopping, movies and games.

This year, the students and staff who stayed on campus were able to participate in the Thanksgiving dinner at St. James Catholic Church.  This is a wonderful experience to have fellowship and visit with people from the surrounding areas.  It is wonderful that the local people put this on in order to alleviate the loneliness that can be associated with this time of year.

I enjoy this time of year.  As my family is grown, I still enjoy going to sports activities. The connection to my St. Joseph’s family is great as I now watch the St. Joseph’s girls play basketball.  They are a lot of fun and I love to watch them play.  This allows me to interact with the students outside of the school setting.  I really enjoy visiting with the students the next day at school on their accomplishments during the game.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

As we are preparing for the Christmas Season, two of our 6/7/8th grade girls homes will be featured in the local Parade of Homes this year.  This is a local event when people decorate their homes and allow the community members to tour them.  This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to connect  with the town of Chamberlain.   The girls are giddy as they are enjoying decorating and getting ready for the tours.  It is the first time that the homes have participated in the “Parade of Homes” showing off their home, their Christmas  decorations, and spirit of the season.

We are also busy educating the students about Christmas during religion and Native American Studies classes.  We celebrate the advent season in the school by having a ceremony every Monday morning.  We try to get the students to realize that there is more to Christmas than just the presents under the tree.

I want to extend Christmas wishes to all our benefactors this Holiday Season.  May your days be very joyful, fun-filled and blessed.  Thank you for all the support you have given to St. Joseph’s throughout the years. 

“Celebrate the feast of Christmas every day, even every moment in the interior temple of your spirit, remaining like a baby in the boson of the heavenly Father, where you will be reborn each moment in the Divine Word, Jesus Christ”—St. Paul of the Cross

 

An Experience of Many “Firsts”

Early last Friday, November 16, two of our middle school boys, Elliot (8th Grade) and Jay (7th Grade), along with Fr. Steve, Adria (Social Strategist), and myself, Brock (5th Grade teacher and chaperone for the boys) boarded a plane for Minneapolis/St. Paul where we would then board our connecting flight to New York City.

This was the start of many “firsts” for the boys, as they had never flown before.  Thankfully, we had smooth sailing, giving the boys a positive flying experience.

We landed as scheduled in New York City and the adventures began!  We were not able to get a taxi for all five of us so we split up and took separate taxis to the hotel.  This was also the boy’s first taxi ride.  The boys and I were in one and Fr. Steve and Adria were in the other.

We grabbed a hot dog from a street vendor (another first) outside our hotel!

We grabbed a hot dog from a street vendor (another first) outside our hotel!

After arriving at the hotel, we unloaded our luggage into one of our rooms on the 26th floor and headed out to see the city.  This was also the first time the boys had been so high up in a building.  We grabbed a hot dog from a street vendor (another first) outside our hotel and headed for the subway to Times Square.

From this point forward, the boys were able to experience numerous other “firsts” ranging from tasting new foods to seeing all of the sights of New York City throughout the remainder of the three days in New York.

After the subway ride to Times Square, Fr. Steve led us to the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, where we purchased our City Sights New York City bus tour tickets.

We proceeded with the Uptown Tour, seeing a variety of sights for much of the afternoon, including Time Square South, the Theatre District North, Columbus Circle/Time Warner Center, Lincoln Center, Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History/New York Historical Society, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Grant’s Tomb and Riverside Church, the Apollo Theatre, Harlem, the Museum of the City of New York, the Guggenheim & Jewish Museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Central Park Zoo to name a few.

Elliot and Jay's first subway ride!

Elliot and Jay’s first subway ride!

We exited our bus to walk around Central Park for a few minutes and took several pictures.  We also were on parts of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route throughout the tour, and saw preparations for the parade.  This made us more interested in watching the parade this year, having just recently been on part of it.

We then returned to the bus tour and started part of the Downtown Tour of New York.  We were able to see many more magnificent sights!

Some of them were The Empire State Building, Macy’s, the Flatiron District, Union Square, SoHo, China Town and the World Trade Center.

Quick stop in Central Park for several pictures!

Quick stop in Central Park for several pictures!

We exited the tour again at the World Trade Center stop and went to meet up with the rest of our group who had arrived a day earlier.  We settled into our rooms and met up for a wonderful Oriental supper not far from our hotel.

After supper, we went back to Times Square to take in more of the New York City experience.  We walked through St. Patrick Cathedral and walked by Rockefeller Center, taking a group shot in front of the still-being-decorated Christmas tree.

We continued our foot tour walking by Radio City Music Hall, eventually returning to Times Square.  We then boarded our City Sights tour bus for more as we drove by Madison Square Garden and saw the lit up Empire State Building on our way back to our hotel.  We exited the tour to return to our hotel rooms for some much-needed rest.

On Saturday morning, we embarked on a short tour of Battery Park seeing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from a distance. After pictures with Lady Liberty in the background, we continued to tour the Financial District, seeing the “Bull” on Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange.

A quick group shot in front of the still-being-decorated Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center!

A quick group shot in front of the still-being-decorated Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center!

We returned to the hotel to freshen up for one of the main reasons for the trip: to meet with our donors and thank them for their generous contributions to St. Joseph’s Indian School!  The boys graciously took pictures with all the donors attending and, although admittedly nervous, gave their individual accounts of life at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  They both did a fine job and represented St. Joseph’s Indian School well.

After the donor appreciation luncheon, we ventured out again to see more of the city, getting the most out of our City Sights Tour tickets.  We boarded a bus in Battery Park and continued with the Downtown Tour seeing the skyline of Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge, South Street Seaport and Pier 17 before heading by China Town, the Ladies Mile, the United Nations and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, to name a few.

We again departed the bus tour at Times Square and attended Mass at St. Malachy Roman Catholic Church before going to eat supper at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, home of the world-famous singing wait staff.   After supper, we continued to walk around Times Square taking numerous pictures to show friends back home.  A “short” subway ride back toward our hotel ended the day, retiring for the night to rest up for another day.

Elliot and Jay with Lady Liberty.

Elliot and Jay with Lady Liberty.

On Sunday, the second of our main reasons for being in New York took place.  We had another donor appreciation luncheon in Melville Long Island.  The boys again graciously took pictures with all the donors attending and were still admittedly nervous speaking in front of the group; but were able to represent St. Joseph’s Indian School in a positive manner as they answered questions from the audience about their experiences here at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

With both donor appreciation lunches completed, we had one more night to explore the Big Apple.  We did some shopping in the SoHo area before heading one last time to Times Square where we ate at John’s Pizzeria. After supper, we took in more of the sights and sounds Times Square had to offer before entering the subway to venture back toward our hotel.  After a couple “extra” subway rides, we were back to our hotel to pack for our return flight to South Dakota to see our family and friends waiting for us back at home.

Everyone loved John’s Pizzeria!

Everyone loved John’s Pizzeria!

Although it was an awesome experience of many “firsts” for several involved, no one hesitated to state that they would be interested in making many other “firsts” and a few “seconds” experiences in the future.

St. Joseph’s Indian School’s choir continues to add spirit to our prayer by their voices. After mass, the director thanked them for their efforts. One student remarked,

“You’re welcome. I like singing and it sure makes mass go by a lot faster!”

Like most things, when you are involved as an active participant, time does pass differently. When people are engaged and lose track of time that’s a good sign.

Last Sunday, our boys’ Intercity Basketball League held practice games. Today was the official start of league play as 6th – 8th grade boys from Chamberlain played alongside our St. Joseph’s students. The difference between  6th graders and  8th is noticeable at that age. A 4’9” sixth grader trying to guard a 5’ 10” eighth grader has great odds to overcome. But everyone hustled and kept trying. All the participants got plenty of playing time. Hopefully all will continue to improve their game, and more importantly, build friendships.

I made the annual Halloween pilgrimage to the Perky Home (4th-5th grade boys). In the basement, our houseparent Wendy has collected several hundred Halloween costumes over the years – store bought and homemade, scary, funny and whimsical. When I arrived, the Raphael boys (1st – 3rd graders) had just finished picking out what they will wear, and excitedly showed their costumes off. I found some Fred Flintstone clothes on the rack that I’ll try while passing out treats on Wednesday.

Yabba Dabba Doo!

Over the weekend many of the homes finished up their efforts to win the decoration contest for each age group.