Palmer Trinity School (PTS) students recently returned from a summer service trip volunteering on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota through Simply Smiles, a not-for-profit that helps provide a brighter future for impoverished families and their communities.
As volunteers, the students spent a week working with Simply Smiles at the Sam D. Horse Community Center in La Planta and nearby homes and project sites where the PTS students helped build two homes which included raising the walls off the foundation, laying flooring, painting, cutting and installing baseboard. They also built a wood fence around the ranch, flower boxes, sidewalks, and assisted on a greenhouse.
In the afternoon the PTS students ran a children’s camp for the Lakota children ages 4-15 and in the evenings they hosted town-wide meals, movie nights, and bingo games with the aim of building relationships with the tribe’s elders and children. This gave the students an opportunity to gain insight into the Lakota’s history and positively influence their future.
Danny Reynolds, associate head of school for external relations, and Dr. Manjula Salomon, associate head of chool for academic affairs, accompanied eight PTS students this summer in what proved to be an enriching and unforgettable experience for them all.
“We have service learning programs all over the world, but this is PTS only domestic travel experience. We feel living, studying, and working on a Native American Reservation is intrinsic to the study of American history. The students were involved in a pre-trip curriculum that involved the study of the history of America’s push westward, the genocide of the First People’s, and the heroes of the Lakota Tribe in order to prepare our students for the experience,” Reynolds said.
“Building a relationship with the Lakota elders and the students was the most rewarding to me about this trip,” stated junior Christopher Montoya- Redlich. “We did a lot of work projects that will help the city of La Plant, but the experience I had on the reservation was lifechanging and will be with me forever.”
Eleventh grader Lauren Evans said, “This experience put in perspective what we had learned in the classroom. It gave a face to American history. It also helped me to connect to the elders of the Lakota and understand what happened to them. I have a great appreciation for their courage and resilience. It also has made me an advocate for the Lakota. All of us are excited to return to the reeservation next summer.”