“Getting Things Done” – Honoring AmeriCorps Members at Red Cloud

March, 15 2018


For nearly 20 years, Red Cloud has been proud to operate what has become one of South Dakota’s largest AmeriCorps programs—part of a nationwide network of community service programs that engages thousands of committed service members in work aimed at improving lives and fostering civic engagement.

At Red Cloud, AmeriCorps member serve as key staff on campus, supporting lead teachers as classroom aides, coaching athletic teams, organizing resources as librarians, and so much more. And their presence makes an extraordinary difference in students’ lives.

“We know that a lack of comprehensive student support is one of the primary factors that leads to poor outcomes for Native students,” said Sarah Camp, Red Cloud’s AmeriCorps Director.

“By serving as mentors and role models for our students, our AmeriCorps members are opening new possibilities for the next generation of Red Cloud students. Their support in and out of our classrooms allows our teachers to be more effective—so that students are able to achieve more in key areas like reading, science, and math. And by facilitating afterschool programs, our members create safe spaces for our students to continue learning while having fun, by taking part in everything from traditional Lakota drumming and hand games to art and science clubs. We couldn’t do what we do at Red Cloud without AmeriCorps Members, and their commitment is inspiring to all of us.”

In honor of AmeriCorps Week, a national celebration of this powerful program, we spoke with three of Red Cloud’s AmeriCorps members—who were all once Red Cloud students themselves. For each of them, the AmeriCorps experience is truly about one thing: serving as a source of support for the next generation.





Joshua Yellow Cloud

His role as an AmeriCorps member is: “I’m the kindergarten teacher’s aide, and last year I was in the second-grade classroom. As a teacher’s aide, my main focus in the classroom is walking from kid to kid, giving my time to students in helping them learn something they aren’t grasping. I only have 8 kids in my classroom, so I can spend a lot of time with all of them. I love their energy.”

He wanted to become an AmeriCorps member because: “I wanted to join so that I could serve my community in my own way. Instead of leaving my community and coming back, I personally wanted to stay to help my younger generation to succeed in the world.”

The best part of the AmeriCorps experience has been: “Every single kid. All these kids keep me going. They’re my world—they make me who I am.”

His plans for the future are: “I want to stay on the reservation and teach for as long as I can. I never thought about being a teacher until last year (after starting AmeriCorps), but being a teacher’s aide made me want to teach. So I’m starting my teaching degree now at Oglala Lakota College, while continuing to serve as an AmeriCorps member. There’s an educational award for serving that helps you to pay off college debt—and it will make a huge difference for me.

I know I want to work with kindergarteners as long as I can as well. I see kindergarten as like a stepping stone to life—for me it’s the most important age and class. And I want to be able to give strong support to a lot of kids who don’t get that on the reservation.”





Kyleigh Blacksmith

Her role as an AmeriCorps member is: “I’m a fourth-grade teacher’s aide. My main focus in the classroom is assisting the kids—especially those who are struggling with the material. I make sure to shadow them, and if they need it, I’m right there to help, so that they don’t fall behind in the class. When the kids get something I’m helping with, it just makes my day.”

She wanted to become an AmeriCorps member because: “I was in the nursing program at Oglala Lakota College but realized it wasn’t something I truly wanted to do. I’d always wanted to be a religion teacher—and I realized I could become an AmeriCorps member and get my feet wet, to experience what teaching would be like. And I really love it!”

The best part of the AmeriCorps experience has been: “Being with my fourth graders every single day, seeing their faces. If I’ve had a bad day, or they have a bad day, we can all come together and somehow change everyone’s attitude. I love it when we can do that. We can all turn things around for each other and end up having a great day.”

Her plans for the future are: “I’ve changed my major—and my ultimate goal is getting my Bachelor’s in K-8 education. I would love to stay here and teach. The kids are so wonderful—and being from here, you’re practically related to everyone. It’s a real community. And the atmosphere at Red Cloud and at Our Lady of Lourdes, you just can’t find that anywhere else.”





Pepper Twiss

Her role as an AmeriCorps member is: “I’m a third-grade teacher’s assistant—and so I guide students through their daily activities, spending time with them, making sure they are doing well and behaving respectfully. I also help individual kids whenever they need additional support in the classroom, which now is hardly ever! They weren’t like this at the beginning of the year, and I’m so proud of them—because now they don’t ask for my help as much.”

She wanted to become an AmeriCorps member because: “My uncle told me about the interviews (for AmeriCorps), and I jumped up and got here. After my freshman year of college, I decided to take a break from classes and focus on this job, because it’s helping me grow and learn in so many areas. But of course I plan on continuing my education—and the financial support for classes and books is a huge help.”

The best part of the AmeriCorps experience has been: “Definitely the kids. They make my day. If they don’t understand something, and I explain it to them, they always reassure me and say ‘I understand now, Miss Pepper, thank you.’ Building that connection with them as been so wonderful. They are teaching me, as I teach them.”

Her plans for the future are: “Working with these students, I now know that I definitely want to be some kind of therapist or school counselor working with kids. That’s what I plan to do after continuing my education and finishing college. I’d love to come back to Our Lady of Lourdes and watch these kids grow, and go off to Red Cloud, and then to college. I’m excited for what the future holds!”



Photos © Red Cloud Indian School


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