A group of 10 students, three administrators and Associate Dean of Arts & Sciences Christopher Kaiser’s father-in-law traveled to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Oglala, S.D., in March.
“My group helped tear down a small community center in a church that had fallen out of use,” sophomore Thomas Cullen said. “We only used hand tools, and the wood was delivered to those in need of firewood.”
Junior Kelsie Teehan said the Lakota people struggle with poverty, “something many of us on the trip never had to consider.” She said she appreciated the opportunity to be so hands-on in the community. “I don’t think the Lakota people will ever know the impact they left on all of us,” she said.
Shannon County, S.D., where Oglala are is located, is No. 3 on MSN Money’s list of the poorest counties in America. A second group of students helped paint and repair a Lakota woman’s trailer. She told the students stories about having to use her grandson’s bedroom furniture as firewood when a snowstorm swept through the area in October 2013.
“Helping her paint her trailer home…feels like nothing to us, but it was greatly appreciated by her,” senior Judit Papp said. “Her stories of the Lakota people’s leg- ends and her life made us redefine some words, like ‘poverty.’ At the end of the week, we were not sure if we gave or gained more, spending time with her.”
On the reservation, the student dropout rate is over 70 per- cent, according to the American Indian Humanitarian Foundation. For this reason, everyone wanted to find a way to help by teaching rather than just handing out donations. With the help of Kaiser, the servant leaders are putting together a scholarship that will provide Lakota students the ability to travel back and forth from whatever university they choose to attend after high school.
There will be a ticket fundraiser to kickstart this project. For more information about the event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rosemary Sweigart can be reached at email@example.com. edu.