Slave to the Landlord or Slave to the Bank?

January 27, 2016


I’m sitting here in my office with a south facing window, the sun shining in, and I’m thinking, “Man, that’s almost annoyingly hot on the side of my face.”  Then I turn and look out to see the sun glinting off of the ice covering our parking lot.  This is when cabin fever really starts setting in.  The sun is warmer, but it’s not warm outside yet.  Even if we get a warmish day, it will just be sloppy out there.

As much as I am going to get antsy to enjoy the spring flowers, there’s another cabin fever that will start kicking in soon too.  It’s those who are thinking they want to get out of their house.  Not to the outdoors, but to another home.  While the emotions can really kick in, we need to be sure we are being logical about the decision as well.  So, here are some discussion points on whether you should become a slave to the bank via your mortgage or stay a slave to your landlord via your lease. Read the rest of this entry »

Our Students Inspire Us

January 25, 2016

It is easy to hear the news on TV and the radio and feel afraid of newcomers. But what we see here at LSS, where we work daily with immigrants and refugees, is nothing like what one might hear in the news.

What we experience here belies the news coverage.

What we experience here are individuals with individual stories and experiences that would make any American with a history of immigration proud – and, of course, that is almost every American.

Laura Smith-Hill, the director of the Education Program here at LSS, recently shared with me two inspiring stories from our students enrolled in Citizenship Class, and I’d like to share them with you.

Laura speaks of a middle-aged woman from China who has lived in the U.S. for about 20 years. Laura explains, “She opens and closes her department at work, putting in 12-hour days. She is a star worker for her employer, and might have been promoted to manager, but her literacy and computer skills were lacking. At the end of the day, she comes home and scoops her sidewalks. On her day off, she exercises because she knows she needs to be strong.”

And the story continues, “She lives alone and emphasized, ‘I try to do everything myself, because I have to pull myself up.’ She didn’t seem to know the rest of the American idiom, ‘… by her own bootstraps,’ but I knew what she meant. She takes great pride in her son, who finished college and is working in New York City. He told her, ‘Mom, you can’t go back to China. This is your home. You have to become a citizen.’ She echoed to me, ‘I love America; I need to stay in this country.’ So on her days off, she comes to our Saturday Citizenship Class to learn to read and write for civic engagement and in order to become a U.S. citizen.”

hard work

LSS Students know the value of hard work.

Laura said this woman reminds her of “how hard all our ancestors had to work to make their way as first generation immigrants in our ‘land of opportunity.’ That opportunity doesn’t come easily to any first generation immigrant; they work hard for it to pave the way for their children and their children’s children.”

Yet another student Laura speaks of is a young man from Iraq who successfully completed the education program here at LSS, received his high school diploma and finished his job training. Today he speaks excellent English and works in one of South Dakota’s high-demand occupations – welding.

As he copes with daily worries for the safety of his parents and siblings back home, he hopes to become a U.S. citizen so he can bring his family to the U.S. for refuge.

Laura explained, “This man finds freedom of religion in the U.S. that his family can only dream of. He believes his purpose in life is to help other people. He shared with me that he didn’t know how he could be a help to people here in America. When I told him about volunteer opportunities at our center and how he could apply to mentor other families who are new to America, he decided to put in his application. The next time I saw him, he walked into the lobby and said, ‘Ahh, LSS is my home.’ He explained that LSS was the first place he came when he arrived in America and everyone here helped him start a new life.”

we rise

Laura said these two students are indicative of the immigrants she meets and works with on a daily basis.

“These two clients are gracious, thoughtful, generous. They are unafraid of hard-work and strive for the good of their families. They are ready to help people around them who are in need. They are stronger for the barriers they face and barriers they have already overcome. They are much like you and me. These qualities are a part of what makes our nation great,” Laura explained.

I personally find it a true privilege to work with these newcomers. If you, too, want to be inspired by their perseverance, hard work, generosity, and kindness, we are always welcoming new volunteers. We can use you in English, job training, and Citizenship classes. Your choice. Contact Kristyne Walth at 731-2009 or email her at to learn how you can join our volunteer program.

Have an inspirational day! : )

Posted by Julie Boutwell-Peterson

Guest Blogger: Minimum Time for Maximum Reward

January 21, 2016

Today we are sharing a letter that a long-time mentor, Christel Schmidt wrote for us to share. Although it is for other mentors, we thought you might like to read it as well! If you are inspired by this and want to volunteer, apply today!


Roughly 9 years ago I heard about fellow employee’s coming back from their lunch hour talking about their paper airplanes they made and games they would play at school with their mentee child. I had never heard of a mentor program before. To physically see their glowing face and to hear the stories, I wanted to do this and to give back. I wanted to be a hero mentor in a child’s life too! Read the rest of this entry »

Donating On A Budget

January 19, 2016

Many of us like to give.  We have those particular charities, organizations, or causes that we like to support.  We have the sense of contributing, of making a difference.  It makes us feel good.  In one particular class that I teach, we work through a budget that includes a line item for donations and offerings.  In a scenario that is designed to be very tight, I have watched groups struggle with this item. Read the rest of this entry »

A Little Happy on your Friday

January 15, 2016

Well, we made it to the end of the week! We’re keeping things light on the blog today and sharing some of the good that went on in LSS Mentoring Services the past week. High Five for Friday!!

ONE Read the rest of this entry »

“Take Hold of the New”

January 14, 2016

I wasn’t going to make any New Year’s Resolutions this year.

I guess I felt like I had enough on my plate just to get through a normal week – I definitely didn’t need to add anything extra. : )

But then, after spending an hour playing Spider Solitaire one night, I had a sudden brainstorm. I would make New Year’s Resolutions, and the first one would be deleting Spider Solitaire from my iPad! : )

And then, you know how it goes, once you make one resolution, you might as well make another. Before I knew it, I had a good list.

2016 new year

My own list prompted me to create a week of English language lessons discussing New Year’s resolutions with my adult learners here at LSS.

We did some listening exercises with YouTube, hearing others discuss their New Year’s resolutions. We talked about the symbolic meaning of a New Year and discussed the categories in which people make resolutions: money, health, work, hobbies, and family.

We also talked about the language behind resolutions: making, breaking, and keeping.

What I enjoyed most, however, was hearing the students talk about their own resolutions.

first blank page.png

One student from Iraq has a goal of visiting her home country this summer. She hasn’t returned since she fled 11 years ago.  Her children, at that time, were babies.  Now they have grown up and her parents won’t even recognize them.

Another student from El Salvador said his list included talking to his friends about God.  His idea was received with much praise from both Christian and Muslim students.  One student from Sudan said, “That is a very good thing.  Very nice.  Very important.”  Smiles and comaraderie were exchanged all the way around.

Every student said they want to improve their English. Quite a few said they want to take a Citizenship class here at LSS and then study for and pass the U.S. Citizenship test.

Many have plans to get better jobs, to visit family, and to improve their living conditions.

I handed out two quotes for them to hang on their walls at home:

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”

“Let go of the old, take hold of the new, and believe that this year will be your best year yet.”

Some of these students have only been in the U.S. a few months while some have been here for a decade, but all of their lives have been turned upside down. They find themselves in a foreign land with a foreign language and foreign customs.  And yet what they want most is to succeed here.  They are looking forward.  They are making plans.  They are making resolutions to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them.

I know they will write good books on the blank pages of their lives.

Let us all do the same. Happy New Year!

Posted by Julie Boutwell-Peterson






New Year, New Goals, New Way of Doing It

January 11, 2016

For our social media posts, Center for Financial Resources is beginning a series on new beginnings.  What a great way to kick it off!  Here’s an old post….  Oh, but it’s still so true!  Goals really are an important start to any new beginning.  Read on and keep an eye out for our other New Beginnings posts.

This year…. “I will lose weight.”  “I will save money.”  “I will be healthier.”  “I will get a better job.”  “I will read more.”  “I will travel more.”  “I will work out more.”  “I will make a difference.”  “I will get more organized.”  “I will spend more time with family.”  “I will enjoy life more.”  “I will spend less money.”  “I will learn something.”  “I will eat healthier.”  “I will travel.”  “I will be less stressed.”  “I will drink less.”  “I will help someone.”  “I will find love.”  “I will be more timely.”

Did you made your New Year’s resolutions?  How’s it going with that?  woman on scaleAfter all, these will set you up for a year of great fame, fortune, and happiness beyond measure.  If you actually do them, that is.  According to, 62% of Americans will at least occasionally make a New Year’s resolution.  As many people as there are that make resolutions, only 8% of people report achieving their resolutions.  That’s less than one in ten that actually meet their goals.

Ouch.  Read the rest of this entry »

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