In June, Palmer Trinity senior Dylan DiBello spent eight days on the Sioux Indian reservation helping the Lakota Indians.
“We were helping build houses and we ran a summer camp there,” he says.
The Palmer sponsored group of 18 was there to work with an organization called Simply Smiles.
DiBello was impressed with the natural beauty of the area.
“We’d be working on the house and you’d stop for a minute,” he says. “You’d look out, past the buildings to the landscape of the mountains. The plains grass, the way the wind blew it, it was like ocean waves.”
While the surroundings were stunning, DiBello was shocked at the conditions on the reservation.
“It’s like a third world country in the middle of America,” he says. “You’d never expect it to be there.”
The Palmer contingent worked on building two houses. His group laid cement and built support for the shed. They also built a pathway.
When they left, the buildings were halfway complete.
DiBello decided to go on this mission trip because he wanted to help people in the U.S. The trip opened his eyes to the adverse conditions under which fellow Americans can live. He made friends with the children and acted as a role model for them.
“Before going in, they told us the reservations had problems of drugs and alcohol,” he says.
In fact, one young boy, probably not more than 11-years old, offered to sell him weed laced with cocaine.
“You don’t know how to react,” he says.
He told the counselors about the incident and learned the counselors were aware of the problem and they were going to talk to the child’s parents.
“It was definitely not what I was expecting,” he says. “That was a first day. It set a certain tone for the trip. It threw things into perspective.”
DiBello said the organization they went to helped has been there only a few years and he could tell the difference in how the children behaved.
“With the older teenagers, 12-14-15 they were a lot more crude and poorer manners than the younger kids,” he says. “The younger kids have had the influence. You can see the change in mindset from the younger kids to the older kids, just from the organization being there.”
That made him realize that what they were doing actually affected the children he made friends with in a positive way.
DiBello is experienced at dealing with children because of his experience with the youth teams at the Alexander Montessori camps. He’s also a member of Best Buddies.
This year, he’s taking over the student run Patriot Outreach program from Blake Miller. Members of Patriots Outreach collect used sports equipment which is sent to needy kids in the Dominican Republic. The collections take place the last few weeks of winter and spring semesters.
“It’s all kinds of sports equipment although they do love baseball so we get a lot of that,” he says.
DiBello is starting quarterback for the Falcons and led the team to back-to-back FIFC Conference Championship games. He hopes to play in college, so he attended New England Elite, a football camp for academically elite schools.
“It’s a good way to get academically elite players in touch with those kinds of coaches,” he says.
He’s had interest from several universities, including Rochester, where he is already eligible for a $10,000 scholarship as the winner of the Xerox Innovation In Technology Award. He plans to major in computer science.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld