by Dr. Troy D. Harcey, Associate Superintendent of Instruction
Road weary and battling more than a smidgeon of the inevitable stiffness that settles into the body after a ten hour power drive, our School District of La Crosse contingent of Health Science Academy (HSA) students arrived home at nearly 11:30 pm last night (04.22.15). The students poured out of the rented minivans, and following some droopy-eyed goodbyes and shouts of appreciation, the “official” portion of the educational sojourn came to an end.
The educational significance gained from our travels to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (South Dakota) – home to over 35,000 members of the Oglala Lakota tribe – will only begin to truly resonate as the youth reflect on the powerful experiences (both shared and personal) each embraced. The fully actualized impact of what was gleaned, and the resulting positive actions each student may initiate, could very well take weeks, months, or even years to germinate. However, I can confidently illuminate here and now that the HSA students represented the Coulee Region with stellar poise, good-natured humor, dedicated efforts toward a purposeful cause, and authentic leadership throughout the time shared with our Oglala Lakota friends. I could not possibly be more proud of each of them. Ann, Kassie, Lacy, Erin, Elisha, Andy, Cheyenne, Brock, and Cammie…you were outstanding! Each of you – in your own sublimely unique way – demonstrated acts of kindness, compassion, good judgment, and leadership.
As long as the journey to Pine Ridge seemed, we are mindful of the fact that the longest – most difficult – journey we will ever take is the one inward. As our students reflect on the experience, I have no doubt they will live the mantra, “Don’t just grow tall, grow deep.” See, it all starts with personal accountability. Each of us must ask ourselves, what am I ready to commit to in order to make a difference? At Porcupine School, Little Wound School, and Crazy Horse School, HSA students demonstrated that one kind word can change someone’s entire day, and the smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention. Somewhere in the sun up to sundown schedule, I believe our students championed the notion that you can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will likely never be able to repay you.
I want to thank the gracious hosts of the Oglala Lakota tribe for welcoming us to their schools (including morning circle in one instance), the teen center in Kyle, the Oglala Lakota College, etc. To our friends and co-collaborators with Gundersen Health System’s Global Partners, I can only say that I stand in appreciative awe of your dedicated service to others. I sincerely thank the entire team for allowing me to come along and to “see” for the first time.
Finally, thank you to all of the parents/guardians who entrusted their child to us for this powerful learning endeavor!