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 Justina Pourier. 

Justina Pourier

Where did you grow up and go to school?

I grew up in Wounded Knee, South Dakota. I went to school at Our Lady of Lourdes and then Red Cloud Middle School and Red Cloud High School.

What made you want to serve a year in AmeriCorps?

I think what made me join was knowing that I could attend OLC and work full-time at the same time and make it work. When I was little, I always knew AmeriCorps workers at the school and they were always cool and supportive. For a second I wanted to be a pediatrician, but later I realized that I always wanted to work with kids and to be a teacher.

What did you learn during your year of service? What was most meaningful for you?

I learned a lot about myself. I’ve grown and matured; I’ve developed confidence, patience and self-reassurance. A main part of the reason I joined was to pick up the language. I am doing that now and I am very happy about that. I’m always a singer, so I got to learn a lot of traditional Lakota songs and to sing with them which I liked a lot.

You're thinking of coming back for a second year. Why?

I want to come back next year because of the great experience I had this year. I am open to continuing to grow in this place.

Is there a favorite moment from the classroom that you could share?

There are so many! Too many to count! Definitely singing with the kids and hearing their jokes. They are so funny, their humor is beyond me. I think there was a time when I was going to say “wash the table” in Lakota but forgot the word, and then a student who was a kindergartener remembered and finished the command for me. Just seeing how much the Lakota Immersion Program works in that way. Also, definitely being able to coach football, the whole season was a highlight for me.

Can you tell us about being an OLC student while working for the program?

I am a full-time student taking classes. I had the opportunity to take one class during the work-day which balances out my schedule a lot. The majority of my classes are in the evening. I have enough time to get there after work and to do homework. I feel like I can communicate to people in the school that I have a final or an essay and they will give me time to complete that. People are understanding in the program.

What are you doing to further the teaching of the Lakota Language?

I am still learning it, which is the main thing I am doing to help.

Are you learning alongside the students basically?

Yes, it’s awesome and it’s encouraging. Sometimes I get emotional over it. Growing up not speaking and then seeing little kids speak. It’s really hopeful.

What do you plan to do in the future?

I just want to make change. I want to have a good outlook on me and for people to say that I use my voice for good.


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