IMG_8865 “We were there mostly to provide service, but I think we were the ones who benefitted the most from the experiences we had and the connections we made with the people we met at Pine Ridge.” –Mackintosh student reflection

Mackintosh Academy middle-schoolers from both campuses recently spent a week with the Oglala Lakota Nation people on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The trip was organized through Re-Member, a non-profit organization that “seeks to improve the quality of reservation life through relationships, shared resources and volunteer services.” Re-Member utilizes site visits and cultural immersion “to develop a growing circle of advocates standing in solidarity with the Indian people of Pine Ridge, South Dakota.”

“It was a chance for the kids to build some sympathy or even empathy. Pine Ridge is currently the second most impoverished region in the US. The trip is also a lesson in work ethics,” said Jay Droeger, Mack-Boulder middle school teacher. “It also tied into our IB curriculum by showing the value that community can have in trying situations.”

Some of the work projects included “skirting” living quarters, constructing an outhouse, working on the solar farm, and building a wheelchair ramp for a residence. In addition to other cultural immersion experiences, the students joined Pine Ridge youth in a march to raise awareness of the high suicide rate amongst teens on the reservation.

Mack-Littleton teacher Greg Ashworth said, “I was impressed by how well the students stepped forward and were active in the community. I used “active in the community” because it wasn’t just doing work when asked, but they also reached out to the community on a human level.”

The students from both campuses reflected on their experiences and shared their reflections with their respective student bodies in the form of very moving presentations.

More student reflections:

“All people are born equal, but the differences between us somehow make that otherwise. I saw that over the trip, and it’s horrible.”

“Pine Ridge changed my view on the Lakota people and our people. It opened my eyes to issues that I had never realized previously.”

“Pine Ridge helped encourage us to make an impact in our community.”

“I am a whole new person since this experience.”