Looking to the future: A Q&A with the President

Spring 2012 Red Cloud Country

Red Cloud Indian School is at the “half-way mark” of a yearlong planning process, a collaborative program that is identifying not only the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, but the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. Red Cloud Country sat down with Fr. George Winzenburg, S.J., president, to check-in on what he’s learning.

Red Cloud Country: What is the most important thing you’ve discovered so far?

Fr. George Winzenburg, S.J.: I have really come to appreciate the breadth and depth of support for Red Cloud from our own people. Our community has spoken freely about what is working well, and is not bashful about where improvements might be made. We have well over 1000 recorded comments. It is such a rich trove of research!

RCC: What themes are emerging?

GW: We have a strong identity. And that is largely based on our mission— a mission that resonates with our community. We also have terrific people, but a large amount of turnover built into our system because of the number of wonderful volunteers and Jesuit scholastics who spend one to three years with us. This presents a challenge to keep staff onboard and form them in mission and identity with such momentum!

RCC: What projects are you exploring?

GW: We will continue to enhance our college and career readiness services. Getting as many of our high school graduates into colleges and careers so they can come back home to the reservation and be part of building an economic base will always be a priority. We are preparing to secure funds to launch a recovery ministry program.

RCC: Tell us more about that.

GW: Many people struggle with addictions here... alcohol and drug abuse, for instance. And there are a number of resources across the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. At Red Cloud, we have a built-in safe haven through our churches. We’re not looking to be a treatment center, but are interested in finding more ways to partner with other places so that we can receive people’s concerns, and then refer them to—and walk with them through—recovery programs.

It’s not that everyone here is addicted, but every family is impacted in some way by alcohol. Someone, somewhere is struggling... or knows someone who is. This impacts the development of new leaders. If you’re weighed down by illness or addiction or hunger, it is hard to step up and say, “I want to be a leader!”

RCC: Why this process? And why now?

GW: Institutions are like people. They have a life of their own! They prosper and succeed only if they adapt and change with the times. I have watched this place grow with so much vitality in the last 10 years. There’s been a lot of quiet growth that people don’t necessarily see. That’s because we have the right mix of loyalty, ingenuity and creativity.

RCC: How can others be involved?

GW: Our donors from around the world write notes and share ideas and offer prayers. This is invaluable because their commitment to Red Cloud is not just financial... it is their heart and soul. They choose to support us because they recognize progress, trust what we do and appreciate how we keep them informed. I hope they’ll continue to do so!