For Seniors, A Chance to Serve the Community

December 20, 2017


Service to one’s community is a central part of life at Red Cloud. And each year, every Red Cloud senior has the chance to design their own independent service project to address a social challenge or community need.

In their “Faith, Service, and Justice” class, seniors focus on a “circle of praxis” that asks them to take four steps: see, judge, pray, and act. Using that framework, they recognize a problem in the community, reflect on how they can take action to address that problem, and then design a solution, drawing on their own skills and talents. And this fall, seniors had a chance to actually live out that practice, designing these and other powerful service projects to make a difference in the community.


Red Cloud senior, Amara Steele.


Helping Red Cloud “Go Green”
Amara Steele

Amara knows firsthand how hard it is for families on the reservation to afford rising energy costs.

“My auntie told me her electric and heating bill is so high in the winter that she barely has enough money for anything else,” she explained.

When Amara found out how much Red Cloud has to spend on energy costs every month to heat and cool its buildings and to keep the lights on, she decided to use her senior service project to do something to help. Working with a friend at the nonprofit Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, which is building eco-friendly, energy efficient housing on the reservation, she began working toward having solar panels donated to Red Cloud and installed on the roof of the high school.

But what’s more, she made education a key component of her service project. In the wake of the battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline, she wants students to understand how they can help their own communities reduce their dependence on oil by advocating for solar power. She’s now working to organize a gathering on campus for students and staff to learn how solar panels work—and just why “going green” is so important.


Red Cloud seniors, Amanda Pond and Shelby Pourier.


A Basketball Tournament to Support a Friend in Need
Shelby Pourier and Amanda Pond

Earlier in the fall, this year’s senior class received the devastating news that one of their classmates was fighting cancer.

“It broke all of our hearts, because our class is more of a family than just an ordinary class,” said senior Shelby Pourier.

Although Shelby and Amanda had initially thought about creating a mural for their senior service project, they immediately changed directions in order to support their friend. Working together, they started planning a two-day basketball tournament on campus to raise money for him and his family. They started by spreading the word, creating their own flyers and posting on Facebook to get teams to enter the competition. They found referees, and even asked for a grant from Red Cloud to purchase trophies and plaques for the winning teams. And fellow students chipped in to help provide concessions.

Ultimately the tournament brought together 10 basketball teams—both girls and boys—from across the reservation. The second day of the tournament didn’t end until 10 pm, and Shelby and Amanda were amazed at how much they were able to raise. But the best part was having their classmate and his mom come to the tournament to share in the excitement.

“It made a lot of people come together for a good cause,” said Amanda.


Red Cloud seniors, Ashlee Red Cloud and Jeff Pourier.


Protecting a Treasured Cultural Resource
Jeff Pourier and Ashlee Red Cloud

Seniors Ashley Red Cloud and Jeff Pourier are both grateful that Red Cloud has a sweat lodge where all students can take part in the inipi ceremony—a core practice in Lakota spirituality. For their senior service project, they decided to do something to make sure that future generations of Red Cloud students will be able to do the same.

Together, they built a shed to store the sweat lodge structure when it’s not in use, to protect it from the elements and preserve it for years to come.

Jeff and Ashley didn’t know much about building to start, but they worked closely with two mentors—both teachers at Red Cloud—to make their plans and begin construction. Over the course of three months, working only on weekends, they sawed and hammered and began to see the structure come together. And the Red Cloud community got behind them: when they struggled to add the shed’s roof, more teachers came out to support them and get it on securely.

“Now that the shed is built, it’s really cool to look at,” said Jeff. “It’s really cool that we were able to do this and contribute to the school.”


Red Cloud senior, Destrie Brewer.


A Mural Honoring Lakota Culture
Destrie Brewer and Bella Rodriquez

For her service project, Destrie Brewer wanted to create something to celebrate traditional Lakota culture—something that would stand the test of time. She has always loved art, and so she decided to create her own mural in one of the high school’s hallways. She chose a design inspired by the vibrant star quilts that are given among the Lakota as a symbol of honor and respect.

With help from her classmate Bella Rodriquez, she began mapping out the initial design. And to her surprise, many of her friends came forward to say they wanted to help with the painting, which will be completed soon. Destrie is excited to see it come together—and hopes it will become a long-lasting reminder to Red Cloud students to celebrate their Lakota identity.

“Being a Lakota Catholic school, I think, more than anything, it’s really important to express our culture, to remind everyone who they are and where they came from,” she said.


Red Cloud seniors, Sadan Bettelyoun and Imani Clifford.


With a “Giveaway,” Supporting Families in Need
Sadan Bettelyoun and Imani Clifford

Poverty is a reality for many families on the Pine Ridge Reservation—and with winter coming, seniors Sadan Bettelyoun and Imani Clifford wanted to be able to share some essential resources with those in need. Working together, they arranged their own “giveaway” for community members to gather, enjoy a warm meal, and bring home cold-weather clothing for the bitter months ahead.

Sadan and Imani worked together to collect donated clothes through the fall, and they secured the hall at Our Lady of the Sioux Church as a space to host the gathering. To let community members know about the event, they put up posters in businesses and buildings across the region—and even worked with Red Cloud’s parish staff in Oglala to have an announcement shared on the local radio station.

The night before the event, they folded everything they’d collected—stacks and stacks of warm coats, hats, and gloves, blankets and more, for men, women, and children of all ages. They also prepared a warm, hearty meal—and placed a big sign by the road to invite community members in. And on the day of the event, they could immediately see the impact of their work. More than 100 people visited the event: they enjoyed a nourishing meal and were able to take home free, desperately-needed winter clothing.

“One man said that he’s glad we did it at this time when many people are going hungry,” said Sadan.

“People were smiling and waving to us,” said Imani. “Some even wrote us letters to say thank you. It felt so good.”

And Sadan and Imani aren’t done yet. Although their service project is officially completed, they decided to host another “giveaway” in January, when the winter cold is near its peak. They aren’t concerned about getting school credit—they simply want to play a part in meeting the community’s most urgent needs.


 Photos © Red Cloud Indian School



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