Closer Connections Conference to be held in Sioux Falls November 8 & 9

October 18, 2017

PATHS jpg

This coming month Lutheran Services of South Dakota and Dakota TESL will be hosting the 2017 Closer Connections Conference, Pioneering New PATHS:  Promoting Acquisition to Heighten Success.

The Closer Connections Conference includes:

  • Best practices for teaching English Language Learners at all ages and levels of proficiency
  • Cultural panels
  • Breakout sessions on refugee resettlement and immigration
  • Networking opportunities

I was able to talk to Dakota TESL President-elect, Diana Streleck, who said, “The Closer Connection Conference provides teachers and community members a venue in which to discuss and learn about the educational needs and cultural backgrounds of the English Language Learner in our communities.”

Thanks in part to the South Dakota Humanities Council, the one of the keynote speakers of the conference will be, Dr. Amer Ahmed, a prominent national speaker and intercultural diversity consultant, who will deliver a keynote address and discussion session, “Addressing Islamophobia: Dispelling Myths to Break Down Barriers.”

Ahmed

Amer F. Ahmed, Ed. D., is an individual with an eclectic personal and professional background. As an intercultural diversity consultant, college administrator, facilitator, poet and Hip Hop activist, he channels his diverse experiences towards effectively changing how we interact with the world around us.  Born in Springfield, Ohio, to Indian Muslim immigrants, Amer has dedicated his life to engaging and facilitating diversity across human difference. Powerful study abroad experiences in South Africa and Nepal have been enhanced by his deep interest in anthropology and Black Studies. His Indian-Muslim-American upbringing, together with his education and international experiences form the basis of his message to his audiences—respect and dignity for all people.

The second keynote speaker will be, Dr. John Schmidt, an educator, trainer, program developer and administrator with extensive international experience will present a keynote address and break-out session reflecting on “At Home in the World: Building Language Skills to House ESL Acquisition.”

john_schmidt

The great-grandson of Norwegian immigrants to Wisconsin, John was raised in the Upper Midwest. In sixth grade he was introduced to a second language, Spanish, by his teacher from Cuba. This encounter was the beginning of his world travels which led him to studying and working in Spain as well as training teachers and developing programs for a variety of educational entities on all five continents.  He currently teaches ESL for the Texas Intensive English Program (TIEP) in Austin, Texas. In addition, he has volunteered his time and expertise in various capacities with TESOL International and Toastmasters International. He has co-authored several ESL textbooks addressing teaching, grammar and English for Specific Purposes.

The Closer Connections Conference gives the local community the opportunity to learn about refugees and immigrants from different countries, listen to international speakers, and engage in interactive sessions to understand diversity in our community.

If you would like to register for the conference, please visit the Dakota TESL website:  http://dakotatesl.com/ for more information.

Posted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor and Dakota TESL Secretary

 


I believe…

September 20, 2017

northshore

I believe that LSS Center for New Americans is an integral part of the Sioux Falls community, strengthening families, providing much needed services, reaching above and beyond to help people. I believe hard work and determination goes a long way in changing lives, the community, and the world. I believe LSS gives people a chance when they had none. There is a certain satisfaction knowing that you have helped make your community a better place to be, have helped people live and thrive when they didn’t have that chance before.
I believe that people come here to be free, to live and love, to build a new life, a better life, and LSS helps them assimilate, helps them overcome language and cultural barriers, prepares them to find gainful employment and housing. LSS helps reunite families and keep families together.
I believe that we are privileged to provide many people with the chance to learn new things. For example, on Monday nights, we offer a technology class at the Center for New Americans. It is so exciting to help students succeed when they have never used a computer before. It is also exhilarating to teach a student who cannot read and write their own language how to read and write in English. These are the precious, empowering moments for our students that help them succeed in our community.
Some time ago, I had a student that told me, “I was afraid when I came to America, but maybe American culture is not bad, it is just different.” This comment has impacted my own thoughts and beliefs. My students’ cultures are not bad. They are just different. There is beauty to be found in each and every one of them.
I believe LSS Center for New Americans changes lives. Not only the lives of the refugees and immigrants they help, but the lives of all the employees and volunteers that work for the changes. Working at the Center for New Americans is challenging work but very rewarding. I believe that the final goals are definitely worth the effort!

Written by Heather Glidewell, LSS ESL Instructor

 

 


September? A holiday month? Really?

September 14, 2017

globe and flags

How many holidays are there in September? Well, that’s pretty easy. One of course – Labor Day. And that’s correct, but it also doesn’t end there. Just about every month has one or two major holidays and then many less known celebratory days, often too numerous to mention. And September is no exception. Let’s take a look.

September is the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month, going from September 15 to October 15. Hispanic Heritage Month dates back to 1968 and highlights the independence of several Latin American countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Chile and Belize – as well as the contributions Spanish speaking individuals have made to the fabric of the United States.

Then there is Labor Day, also known as the unofficial end of summer. It became a federal holiday in 1984, honoring the American workers who – through strength, sweat and perseverance – have shaped this country into what it is today.

And then there is the plethora of other celebrations. A little something for everyone. The internet tells me that there are more than 650 holidays worldwide in September. Several religious holidays are spread throughout the month: the Muslim Eid-al-Adha, remembering that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Ishmail to God, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a day of repentance. The government is also well represented, with Citizenship and Constitution Days, Goldstar Mother’s Day and the Air Force’s birthday.

Acorn squash, cheese lovers pizza, salami, TV dinners and Chocolate Milk Shakes are among the many foods highlighted during the month of September. All these meals require a National Clean Up Day. Don’t forget your pets, video games and clean beds.

My personal favorite is definitely National Coffee Day, observed on September 29. There might be some free cups of coffee to be found on that day. I will certainly give it a try.

National-Coffee-Day

Written by Silke Hansen, LSS English Instructor


LSS Foundation Founders Family & Distinguished Partners Luncheon

August 30, 2017

You may have heard us describe the LSS mission as a ministry of presence. But what exactly does that mean? Our programs are designed to meet people where they are in life—without judgment, to provide hope and healing, and to offer a chance for them to change their future. But the truth is our ministry is brought to life, sustained and performed by you—our supporters, partners and advocates.

On August 18, we paid tribute to those who breathe life into our mission at our annual LSS Foundation Founders Family & Distinguished Partners luncheon at Callaway’s in Sioux Falls.

The LSS Foundation Founders Family was established in 1994 to honor those who have committed to establishing a lasting legacy with either a significant gift to the LSS Foundation or by planning a gift to LSS beyond their lifetime.

Since its inception, the LSS Foundation has disbursed more than $2.5 million to continue the mission of LSS and this fund continues to grow each year thanks to our many generous supporters who make our mission a part of their legacy.

This year we welcomed two such supporters as new members of the LSS Foundation Founders Family. We are grateful for their consideration. To learn more about the LSS Foundation Founders Family please click here.

One of the many blessings of living in South Dakota is living in a community of shared values such as the value of caring compassion for each other. These values are reflected not only in our individuals, but in our communities, our churches and in our corporations. At this event, we also celebrated those relationships and payed particular thanks to our 2017 Distinguished Partners.

 

First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard representatives – 2017 Distinguished Corporate Partner of the Year

Distinguished Corporate Partner of the Year

Over the past 10 years, more than 200 First PREMIER/PREMIER Bankcard employees have contributed 15,000 plus hours of contact with at-risk youth in the Sioux Falls community. In addition to encouraging volunteers, First PREMIER/PREMIER Bankcard has stepped up to financially support the mission of LSS with annual sponsorship of LSS events included the Mentoring Services Recognition Breakfast, Doing Good on the Green golf event in Watertown, and a recent leadership gift through the Sioux Falls Chamber Community Appeals Fund Drive which helped make the LSS Campus on East Bank dream a reality. We are truly grateful and honored by the many gifts of funding and volunteers provided by First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard.

 

Dale McElhany, Watertown – 2017 Distinguished Volunteer of the Year

Distinguished Volunteer of the Year

This year LSS hosted the seventh-annual Doing Good on the Green in Watertown. This golf tournament has grown to be an annual attraction for golfers from all over the state (and some as far as Arizona). But this event would not be possible if not for the leadership, vision and passion of its founder. Dale McElhany is the proud and very much deserving recipient of the 2017 LSS Distinguished volunteer of the year award.

Touched by adoption through LSS himself, Dale has been a passionate advocate for LSS adoption services. He has made it his mission to provide assistance to families that want nothing more than to experience the love of a child. Dale’s stewardship of this event has helped raise more than $100,000 for services in the Watertown area, providing numerous scholarships to create happy families through LSS Adoption Services.

Thank you Dale for all you do for LSS and for your community.

 

Jim Schade & Kathy McHenry, Lutheran Planned Giving of South Dakota – 2017 Distinguished Faith Partner of the Year

Distinguished Faith Partner of the Year

LSS is a ministry of the ELCA in South Dakota and we would certainly not be able to fulfill this mission without the many congregations, church organizations and faith partners who walk with us to bare witness to this mission. This year LSS is proud to recognize Lutheran Planned Giving of South Dakota with special recognition of Jim Schade and Kurt Osborne. For more than 20 years, Jim and Kurt have had a long, deep and profoundly committed involvement with LSS. Both have served on the LSS Governing and Foundation Board of Directors. Kurt has served as the Chair of the Governing Board and Jim and his wife Nancy are members of Founders Family.

They have committed their time and talents to fulfill the vision and mission of LSS. They have met with countless individuals and families to help guide their decisions about legacy gifts and it is safe to say that we would not have the LSS Endowment Fund that we have today without their careful stewardship. Both are moving on to new adventures but we know that their passion and commitment to LSS will remain and for that we are extremely grateful.

Thank you to all our distinguished partners and thank you to our many wonderful supporters who have committed to creating a lasting legacy of Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities.

Jamie Lennon, Development Director
LSS Development & Foundation


THANKS for Doing Good on the Green

August 16, 2017

The 7th annual LSS Golf Tournament at Cattail Crossing Golf Course in Watertown was another success! All funds raised go toward client services in the Watertown area – strengthening individuals and families. Services include adoption services, mental health counseling, and financial counseling and education.

We would like to say a special thank you to Reliabank, our presenting sponsor, along with the following sponsors:

Dale McElhany welcomed 84 registered golfers before teeing off at the 7th Annual LSS Golf Tournament in Watertown.

Dennis & Shirley Larson
Falcon Tour River Adventures
First Premier Bank
Sharp Automotive
Diamond Realty
Larry’s Lumber
First Bank & Trust
Aason Engineering
KWAT Radio
KXLG Radio
Macksteel Warehouse
Citi-Wide Property Management

We would like to send a special thank you to Levi Pearson and everyone at Cattail Crossing Golf Course for always helping us put on an amazing golf tournament!

We want to recognize Dale McElhany for his vision and efforts in helping to put this golf tournament together each year!

Betty Oldenkamp, LSS President/CEO and Mary Johnson, LSS Counseling Services in Watertown, pay tribute to Ronald Flemming, who dedicated 25 years to LSS prior to passing away almost a year ago.

This year, we had the privilege to pay tribute to Ron Flemming, who was a LSS clinical therapist for 25 years. Ron passed away less than a year ago and he touched many lives during the time he was with LSS. A print was dedicated to the Watertown LSS Counseling office in Ron’s honor for his dedicated service, devotion and commitment to LSS.

Following 18-holes of golf, golfers enjoyed a steak dinner and learned more about the many LSS services in the Northeast.

We would like to acknowledge all of the participating golfers and volunteers from the LSS Golf Tournament! We truly have such a smooth process with these events because of our wonderful volunteers!

Have we said THANK YOU yet?
We truly appreciate all of you.

 

Liesl Hovel, Development Director, Northeast Region
LSS Development & Foundation
605-262-6301 direct,  Liesl.Hovel@lsssd.org
www.LssSD.org


On the Road to Citizenship!

August 1, 2017

On Friday and Saturday mornings, something special takes place at the Center for New Americans. As soon as the doors open, about 100 adult students show up, eager, happy, and ready to work.  There are always lots of smiles and laughter, but the students come for some very serious work.

All of these students are refugees and immigrants who have lived in the United States for the past year or more, and now they want the opportunity to become citizens of this country where they have felt welcomed and secure, raised their families, paid taxes, and grown to love. These super dedicated students take time out of their lives, their work schedules, their families, to come and learn about U.S. history, U.S. civics, and U.S. geography.  Students learn how to read and write English and build confidence in their listening and speaking skills. They faithfully come to Citizenship class, because they all share the hope and dream of becoming a citizen themselves…some day!

Sitting alongside these students are classroom volunteers. Just like the students they help, these volunteers set aside time out of their busy weekly schedules to make a difference. Being a volunteer is an invaluable experience.  Here are a few of the benefits of being a volunteer:

  • Enjoy helping others learn
  • Give back to the community
  • Become aware of needs in the community
  • Share valuable skills and knowledge
  • Learn about new cultures
  • Help people understand American culture, history, and the English language
  • Build bridges across cultures
  • Make new friends
  • Discover and build new skills and ideas
  • Have an overall positive experience

What does it take to become a U.S. Citizen?

The U.S. naturalization process is an expensive and difficult process. Candidates for naturalization need to undergo and pass an intensive interview in English.

Candidates must then undergo an oral examination on U.S. history and government where they must listen to and correctly answer six out of ten questions that are randomly chosen from 100 possible civics, history, and geography questions. Would you pass? The USCIS has an online practice test: https://my.uscis.gov/prep/test/civics

Finally candidates are required to demonstrate their English reading and writing ability. Candidates must pass all three exams before being recommended for citizenship (naturalization).

Want to be a citizenship classroom volunteer?

Contact Kristyne.Walth@lsssd.org.

Need free citizenship classes?

You can receive free citizenship classes if you bring your green card. Call 731-2000 to schedule an enrollment appointment for the next class session.

Want help filling out the “citizenship application” or N-400?

Call 731-2000 to schedule an appointment with an immigration attorney for reduced or free rates.

Want to know more about the process of becoming a citizen?

Visit the USCIS website https://www.uscis.gov/ for details.

Written by Heather Glidewell

 


A Summer of New Experiences

August 1, 2017

Imagine for a moment some of the tasks on your to-do list this week. Chances are a lot of things on the list are “just get it done” tasks, the kind of thing you have to remember to do, but you don’t think about very much –picking up prescriptions, grabbing groceries for the week, scheduling a dental appointment for your child.

Now imagine you’ve been dropped off in a totally new country – a place where people don’t speak your language, you don’t get food at the same kind of store, and you have no idea who to call or even if you can call to make that dentist appointment. Suddenly, that “just get it done” to-do list has become full of looming, seemingly impossible tasks. Common activities are suddenly hopelessly confusing. This is the reality for many refugee families when they first arrive in the United States.

This summer I’ve had the pleasure to work with many of Sioux Falls’ refugee families through an internship at the LSS Center for New Americans. When refugees arrive in Sioux Falls, they are assigned a set of LSS case managers. These case managers have varying specialties, such as locating housing, navigating the medical system, finding employment, and enrolling children in public school.   However, I think of myself as the luckiest person working here, because, as the intern, I get to help out in all of these specialties.

Leigha Vilen

CNA Intern Leigha Vilen

As someone who has never spent much time outside the United States (I thought the move to college was a big transition!), I have been awed and inspired by the resilience of the refugee families we work with as they negotiate living within an unfamiliar culture. The role of the caseworker is primarily as a facilitator, helping to navigate the challenges created by this unfamiliarity. Our clients take this little bit of help and use it to build amazing futures: achieving new educational goals, advancing in their careers, and creating the best possible futures for their children and grandchildren.

Leigha working at her desk

Leigha working at her desk.

I owe LSS and the families I was lucky enough to work with a huge thank you for an amazing summer. I came in hoping to learn a little bit about social work and refugee resettlement, but I’m walking away with a vision of what the American Dream can look like at its best.

 

Leigha Vilen

Summer 2017 Intern, LSS Center for New Americans


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