Red Cloud School inspires and empowers

Red+Cloud+School+inspires+and+empowers

President of the Red Cloud Indian School Father George Winzenburg, S.J. and Director of Student Advancement and Alumni Support at Red Cloud High School Mrs. Nakina Mills visited Sacred Heart Greenwich December 7 to share lessons, prayers, and stories from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. 
Sacred Heart offers the Pine Ridge Service Learning Opportunity which allows a small group of teachers and students travel to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to work with middle and elementary school students at the Red Cloud School Summer Program. The program is run by the Red Cloud Indian School which is a Catholic school administered by Jesuits and the Lakota people located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, according to redcloudschool.org. The school educates students from Kindergarten through twelfth grade.
In addition, Upper School English Teacher and Head of the English Department Dr. William Mottolese became deeply involved with Red Cloud School over the course of his sabbatical two years ago. Dr. Mottolese, with Sacred Heart Upper School Math Teacher Mrs. Judene Pendergast and her husband, Chair of Religion and Philosophy at Brunswick School Mr. John Pendergast collaborated to create a comprehensive curriculum for Red Cloud School. The work of Dr. Mottolese, Mrs. Pendergast, and Mr. Pendergast helped to foster the development of a strong relationship between Sacred Heart and Red Cloud School. 

The Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Katie McCabe '18
The Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge indian reservation in South Dakota. Katie McCabe ’18

 
In return, Father George makes an annual visit to Sacred Heart. Father George was a board member at Red Cloud School for 6 years and, in 2010, he became president of Red Cloud School. This year, Father George spoke to Upper School students about the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the mission of Red Cloud Indian School, and the close connection between Sacred Heart and Red Cloud School.
“What’s enjoyable is to create a school environment in which students can create a dream for themselves, where faculty can give them the education, tools, and means to support that dream and make it come true,” Father George said.
During the morning gathering, Mrs. Mills shared her experiences attending and working at Red Cloud school.  Mrs. Mills attended Red Cloud School from the ages of three to 18, graduating in 1998. She then earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Creighton University, later serving on the Red Cloud Board of Directors, and working at Red Cloud High School.
Father George Winzenburg addresses Upper School Students in the Lennie and John De Csepel Theater December 7.
Father George Winzenburg addresses Upper School Students in the Lennie and John De Csepel Theater December 7. Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

She reflected on the tight-knit community at Red Cloud School, and the close relationships between students and teachers. She also offered insight about her job at Red Cloud School, which includes assisting students transition from high school to college.
In addition, Mrs. Mills explained that outside the Red Cloud School community, the prospect of postsecondary education is unpopular and sometimes criticized. For instance, 100 percent of Red Cloud School graduates have plans to further their education and training, while only a handful of students at other, larger schools in the area leave the reservation after graduation.
“I enjoy getting students to see their potential, because we deal with a lot of students who have low self-esteem, and I want my students to know that I see their potential. I want to get them to pursue postsecondary options outside the reservation, to make plans for their futures,” Mrs. Mills said. “When I see a student who needs help, I want to be there.”
Sacred Heart students and teachers gather with visitors from Red Cloud School for an interfaith prayer service December 7. Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide
Sacred Heart students and teachers gather with visitors from Red Cloud School for an interfaith prayer service December 7. Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

Mrs. Mills also spoke about Red Cloud High School students’ commitment to community service, as one-hundred percent of Red Cloud High School students volunteer on the reservation. Many alumni want to return to the reservation to assist their communities, whether by practicing tribal law, or organizing basketball tournaments to fundraise for a community member’s cancer treatment.
“The students are motivated and driven, which also drives me.” Mrs. Mills said.  
After speaking to students in the theater, Father George and Mrs. Mills visited classrooms, chapel services, and took part in a prayer service in the St. Madeleine Sophie Barat Interfaith Chapel. During break period, the visitors directly engaged with students and answered some of their questions. Students inquired about Lakota traditions, everyday life on the reservation, the challenges facing students and families living in Pine Ridge, and Father George and Mrs. Mills’ favorite experiences at Red Cloud School. Upper School students even reached out to Father George and Mrs. Mills to suggest a photography and art exchange between Red Cloud High School students and Sacred Heart Upper School students.
Mrs. Nakina Mills shares her experience working and studying at Red Cloud School.
Mrs. Nakina Mills shares anecdotes from her time studying and working at Red Cloud School. Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

“It was fascinating to learn about the reservation and the students at Red Cloud High School. I was particularly interested in hearing about Red Cloud alumni who pursued higher education or military service. The emphasis on each student’s future post-graduation displays the goals and values of the Red Cloud students, faculty, and community as a whole,” junior Bettina Hervey said.
Father George echoed a similar sentiment as he described the essential goal of Red Cloud School.
“We’re in the business of creating hope. We create a positive educational environment, so students feel empowered to choose their future,” Father George said.
– Emily Coster, Opinions Editor and Co-Podcast Editor