Red Cloud Alumni Stories of Service:
AmeriCorps Edition

Chris Giorlando, Red Cloud AmeriCorps Director, wishes to highlight "stories of service" of past Red Cloud Alumni AmeriCorps members, and their continued support in teaching the Lakota Langugage! In addition, hopefully this story offers some insight and advice for anyone considering becoming an AmeriCorps member in the future. The following interview is with Alex Flournoy. 

Alex Flournoy

Where did you grow up and go to school?
Growing up, I lived in a lot of different places. I lived in Missouri, Tennessee, and a few other places. I've been to a lot of different schools and experienced many different environments. When I was 16, I moved to Porcupine, where my family is originally from and I graduated from Red Cloud.

What made you want to serve a year in AmeriCorps?
I would love to tell you that it was to further develop my career, and I planned everything out, but everything just worked out well. I originally did the Lakota Multimedia internship at Red Cloud. Those are two things that I am very passionate about and want to pursue; the Lakota Language and media. Then when Chris from Red Cloud reached out to me, it was the perfect next step. It helped provide me the opportunity to get experience teaching, to be around the students, and to be a part of a Lakota environment.

What did you learn during your year of service? What was most meaningful for you?
I would say that students learn in different ways and that they grow at different rates. You can really get them into learning. They really love to learn if you do it right, but you have to prioritize building a strong relationship. That needs to be your priority even before teaching them, or they won’t want to learn from you.

Is there a favorite moment from the classroom that you could share?
Seeing my students grow in terms of speaking in Lakota. We have morning meetings to ask them about colors, how they’re feeling, shapes, and stuff like that. Hearing them respond in Lakota and seeing them express themselves with phrases such as “iyomakhipi” and “tanyan waun” made me really happy.

Can you tell us about your non-profit?
Originally, the idea started when I was in high school. I always wanted to do something in media, something with graphic design and video creation. I also wanted to do something in Lakota so that I could continue to learn the language and take it back for my family. Doing these internships and being at Red Cloud made me realize that there is not a lot of content out there for Lakota. Content in your target foreign language is one of the most important elements to learning a language.

With my non-profit- Gen 7, we are creating that content. Thanks to Americorps, I can use it with students and observe how they react to it. It helps me see what helps them learn the most. When using it with students, I’ve been able to grow as a teacher and a speaker, too.

Americorps also helped me learn how different students learn. I’m hoping we can keep growing so that we can make different books, tv programs, and movies all in Lakota.

Why did you start Gen7 in the first place?
Lakota language revitalization is really important to me. My family is from the Pine Ridge and Rosebud area. As the years went on and the boarding school era hit, my grandparents moved away from the reservation as they did not want their kids to go through the boarding schools and experience the hardships they did. As a result, my family lost our language. I’m happily learning my language again, and I believe everyone has something to give for the oyate. Whatever I can do, even if it’s small, I want to contribute and make sure that people who have gone through the same situation as me can relearn Lakota. As well as anyone else who has just struggled to learn.

What are you doing to further the teaching of the Lakota Language?
Thanks to many great Lakota speakers and educators that I learned from or watched, I know a lot about different teaching methods. I like to use things like TPRS (Teaching Proficiency Through Storytelling) where we create stories together where they join and become characters. I also like to create Lakota videos with Minecraft, Super Mario, or Spiderman, things they are interested in so that they can learn at home. That way they can engage in the learning environment beyond the classroom so that they are continuing to learn and retain the language.

I want to also break down learning the language into extensive and intensive input as language learning experts say we need. Intensive input is building that foundation where you are developing those skills firmly in the language. Extensive input is when you see Lakota or any foreign language and you are fully immersed in it. With extensive you are covering more ground and challenging yourself more. Different methods for different students is what I learned from many of our Lakota educators and experiencing things myself.

What do you plan to do in the future?
After this year, I’ll have my Lakota teaching License. I want to teach Lakota. I hope to work with upper-el(ementary) more. I want to teach Lakota in new ways that have not been introduced to my students. I hope that can help me learn even more in both language and teacher methods. That will help me with my work at Gen7 which I want to do for the long term.


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