Marching On: Teaching Without a Classroom

June 16, 2020

Determined to keep providing English classes the education department at the Center for New Americans built an online program.


CNA teachers say hi on Zoom©.

The teachers at the Center for New Americans put their students first. So saying, with all the life changing events in the past few months, the teachers were determined to keep their students well being and educational needs at the foreground as doors were locked, businesses closed, and residents were encouraged to stay home.



Outside the LSS building, water tight tubs hold class packets for students.

This unprecedented situation called for creativity and adaptability, and the CNA teachers took the plunge to build an entire online education program for the refugees and immigrants in the Sioux Falls area. This endeavor posed unique problems, in particular, ensuring that students had the appropriate technology, applications, and Internet access.
After researching multiple online platforms and considering the pros and cons, teachers began helping several students download and install Zoom© in the final days of March. Outreach continued through April, as teachers created handouts and videos to help students.
As of today, over 100 students have successfully navigated and joined English, citizenship, and special classes via virtual classrooms.


A teacher’s desk is setup for a day of online English classes.

What made this online transition successful?
Teachers with patience and determination, the willingness to fail, and most of all, contacting the families. If the family is supporting the student, helping them navigate the technology, making sure they have a quiet space to learn from their English teachers, then the student will be successful online.
What does the future bring us?
Online classes or hybrid classes may continue to be implemented in the months ahead. The Center for New Americans is putting the health and safety of their students first and will continue to provide essential English classes in whatever way necessary.

A few quotes from our wonderful education staff:

“This has been a Herculean effort, with every teacher working tirelessly to overcome language and technology barriers to build this program and continue to serve our students. Even though COVID has kept us physically apart, Zoom© classrooms have allowed us to retain what is so special about the Center for New Americans: our connection to our students whom we love so much.”~~Teacher Lindy

“We feel grateful that our students have been so adaptable and willing to try out the new, unfamiliar technology. We’re also thankful that the students’ family members are able to help them use the technology at home.”~~Teacher Kate

“The students have been so dedicated to continuing their learning, figuring out this technology and all the issues that come with it – and all without complaining! This is outside all of our comfort zones, but they are so patient and persistent. I’m so proud of them.”~~Teacher Amy

“The benefits of using online classes have surprised me. I have had students that struggled in the traditional classroom begin to flourish in the online platform.”~~Teacher Heather

“Zoom© teaching has grown on me. I am impressed with our team about how fast we had the Zoom© classes up and running, with no prior training or experience.”~~Teacher Silke

Written by Heather Glidewell | LSS Center for New Americans | Adult ESL Instructor
300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls, SD 57103
1-866-242-2447 toll free | 605-731-2059 fax

Helping Our Community

June 9, 2020

The CNA lobby filled with food ready to be sorted and delivered.

The lobby at the Center for New Americans is usually filled with the chatter of students laughing and visiting before going to English class, but for the past month, it has been filled with staples like oranges, potatoes, flour, rice, beans, and onions. Our Direct Service Staff has spent countless hours buying, sorting, packing, and delivering food to those of our clients most in need due to COVID-19. This has been just one way the CNA has stayed connected and continued to give care to our clients, our friends.


Queencilia and Celina boxing up potatoes and onions.

CNA Case Manager Queencilia Ng’andu says, “I am so happy to be doing this. We all miss our clients, and it helps us to see them and know they are doing fine when we make our deliveries. The clients really appreciate this help, and they never expected it.”

In the past 5 weeks, the Direct Service staff has delivered food to nearly 700 families in the Sioux Falls community; many of the families served have been impacted by the Smithfield outbreak or are coping with cut hours or job loss in other service industries. The staff has also made sure to deliver food to the elderly or sick – those who cannot easily and safely go to the grocery store. The staff will call each family ahead of time to let them know they are coming to drop off food. There are no hugs, no handshakes, no contact, but “the clients are so happy to see us and to know someone is out there who cares about them,” says Queencilia.


The whole team working together.

This has been truly a team effort, with all Direct Services staff pitching in to make sure these deliveries happen. It’s not uncommon to walk through the lobby and see our masked and gloved co-workers measuring out flour, sorting oranges and potatoes, or hauling in 50 pound bags of rice. The CNA thanks all of them: Celina, Queencilia, Ahmed, Mohamed, Adane, Lilly, Kharka, Lily, and Amy for their work. These people are truly carrying out LSS’s core values of treating the clients we serve with compassion and respect.

Written by:
Lindy Obach | LSS Center for New Americans
ESL Instructor
300 E 6th St | Sioux Falls, SD 57103
1-866-242-2447 toll free

Strengthening Individuals, Families and Communities

Why Choose LSS When Considering Placing Your Baby for Adoption?

May 16, 2020

Facing an unplanned pregnancy is stressful enough. There are a lot of decisions to be made, so struggling to know who to trust shouldn’t be an additional stress. Often it feels so overwhelming that you just want someone else to take care of everything. Sometimes this opens up the opportunity for coercion to take place. Adoption is a permanent decision, so it is important that clients are fully informed, feel supported ownership of their decision, and feel protected from coercion or exploitation. Read the rest of this entry »

2020 Outstanding Mentor Nominees

May 15, 2020

Today, we want to introduce you to a few more of our 2020 LSS Outstanding Mentors! While were were not able to celebrate them in person, please take a moment to read more about these special people.

Cathy Brechtelsbauer, Mentor at Patrick Henry Middle School
Cathy is diligent in making her Wednesday meetings every week at Patrick Henry. She is incredibly reliable. Many times, her student will express to school staff how much it means to have Cathy visit. Along with being reliable, Cathy is resourceful! She is always bringing different crafts and projects for the two of them to work on. One time, she brought in wood and sandpaper to make a table! Things like this teach the student new skills and gives depth to the time they spend together. Everyone at Patrick Henry is thankful for the reliability and commitment by Cathy!

Shane Matthys, Mentor at Roosevelt High School
Shane always keeps in touch with his high school student, whether by phone or visits. He makes so much effort to talk to his student and see him regularly because he has a genuine interest in this kid. Shane is in the USucceed program with his student, which allows for contact outside of school and with his students family. Recently, Shane invited his student and family to his home. Everyone was so excited to meet his student because they had heard so much about him! His students mom says, “I am so grateful that my son has a man in his life that is of great character and he feels comfortable sharing with him. It just gives me peace and comfort knowing that my son has Shane to talk to and Shane has always been there for him. I also feel confident in Shane’s character and I know anything they talk about at all, Shane handles with love and care. He has my son’s best interest at heart and it shines through with everything Shane has ever done or said.”

Troy Miller, Mentor at Hawthorne Elementary
Troy has served as a mentor for six years, and currently meets with two students – a high school student in USucceed and an elementary school student in Everyday Heroes. With his high school student, Troy is so happy that they both stuck with the match. They have been able to experience kayaking, fishing, movies, basketball games, dining out and hunter safety classes. The two both enjoy power lifting – a sport that his student just started this year and one that Troy participated in as well. With his elementary student, Troy is happy to just be a stable presence for him at school. He followed him through a school transition, and they enjoy playing games (Pictionary is a favorite) and reading together. Troy has been personally impacted by mentoring. He always leaves in a better spirit and takes time to appreciate the students he mentors.

Congratulations to these nominees! Please watch for more outstanding mentor nominees next week!

Post by Michelle Madsen

Outstanding Rookie Mentors 2020

May 8, 2020

Please “meet” the 2020 Outstanding Rookie Mentor nominees! We hope to someday postcard-5.5inx8.5in-h-frontappropriately celebrate these individuals in person. Until then, please send them a virtual high five on a job well done!

Nadine Benjamin, Mentor at Hartford Elementary
Nadine quickly developed a relationship with a little girl who loves and looks forward to her visits each week. When mentoring, Nadine brings crafts, projects, games and more. She also brings birthday and holiday treats. All of these things are great, but her student enjoys Nadine’s company most of all. One week, her student was sad and crying. Nadine showed up to mentor and the student ran up and hugged her. That’s exactly what she needed to feel better. Nadine is giving time to a young student who lacks a female role model in her home, pouring into a student who needs a little extra love.

Anelis Coscioni, Mentor at Eugene Field Elementary
Anelis has an infectious positive attitude. She is always trying to find ways to help the Eugene Field community. She has helped her student be a more comfortable and confident learner. After telling her things about what they’re doing in school, Anelis will bring a book or game that is related to that topic. Her students’ teacher told Anelis about her student often getting stomachaches after lunch. Anelis worked with her student to eat the hot lunch, which led to exchanging trips to the office with learning and engaging with classmates. This student is happier and more connected. The school is sure they would not have seen this positive change had it not been for Anelis.

Eric Rupe, Mentor at Patrick Henry Middle School
To say that Eric is a dedicated mentor would be an understatement. He takes time out of his busy work schedule to meet with his student. It is so important for his student to feel like he has somebody that is interested in what he’s saying and feels like he’s a priority. Eric does just that. He is truly making an impact on his student!

Typically, the nominees and recipient are acknowledged at the LSS Mentor Appreication Breakfast which was scheduled for lat April. We appreciate all mentors and the time they give. We are honored to recognize these three in this small way. We are also so thankful for our wonderful 2020 LSS Mentor Appreication Breakfast sponsors:

First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard
Sanford Health
Wells Fargo
Mailway Printers

TBT to Checkbook Registers

May 7, 2020

Cassette tapes.  Rotary phones.  Floppy disks (that really were floppy).  Looney Tunes.  Camera flash cubes.  Guess jeans with the triangle tag on the butt.  Oh, so many memories of days gone by.  Things relegated to Facebook memes and internet lists.  But so many great memories.

I could wax eloquent about these forgotten items.  I can be, after all, kind of sentimental about things.  Rather than an exhaustive list, I want to focus on one specific nearly-forgotten item.  Checkbook registers.  How many of us even keep one any more?  How many of us even know what a checkbook register is any more? Read the rest of this entry »

LSS Childcare & Education meets needs of essential employees

April 28, 2020

Each night, Ramsey Hague (age 19 months) loves to answer “YAY” when asked how her IMG_0495day went. Since she was just 12 weeks old, Ramsey has been attending LSS Childcare & Education Services Southern Hills location. As many services across Sioux Falls have shut down, LSS remains open for families like Ramsey’s, whose parents are essential employees at Sanford.

“Having childcare available means that we are able to keep our routine as normal as possible during this pandemic. It is nice to have a bit of ‘normalcy’ during these unprecedented times,” said Sarah Hague, Ramsey’s mom.

To help ease concerns, staff send Sarah frequent photo and video updates of what Ramsey is up to. Recently, LSS celebrated the national Week of the Young Child and while this looked very different from previous years, they still made it work. “It was unfortunate that we as parents did not get to be on site to have muffins and donuts. The staff adjusted the schedule to still make the week special,” said Sarah. “They had an indoor picnic, which I think Ramsey really enjoyed based on the pictures we received that day!”

While Ramsey has enjoyed her time, Sarah and her husband did consider options before deciding to continue at Southern Hills. “As parents, it is not a decision we take lightly to send our daughter to daycare during a pandemic,” said Sarah. “However, with the added precautions LSS has taken and the open communication from the staff, it makes the decision much easier.” ­­

Through this pandemic, LSS teachers are delighting with their young learners in the little things like walks, picnics and just being present while kids are in their care. They are taking time to see the world through the innocence of toddlers like Ramsey. Maybe we can all learn a lesson from that.

Post by Michelle Madsen

Our Appreciation Cup Runneth Over

April 24, 2020

Being the planners that we are, back in January when we were scheduling blog posts, the one for April 24 was going to be a slam dunk, easy one – 2020 Mentor Appreciation Breakfast Recap. We were going to share our emotionally charged stories, videos and messages shared at the event that was set for the previous day.

As we all know, plans changed.

What we have been blown away by though, far more than what we could get from any event, is the kindness, care and concern LSS mentors have for their people. Almost daily, we get stories or requests of help from Sioux Falls families connected by LSS.

Here is just a sampling of how mentors have shown up, big and small, without physically being there:

  • A mentor refurbished an old computer for their student and family to use. Because of this generosity, this student is able to engage with teachers and classmates during this season of e-learning.
  • When their student has reached a goal (that mentor and student set together), one mentor brings in a treat. This student was able to achieve a goal recently, and asked for pizza. The mentor anticipated some jealous feelings by this students six siblings, and decided to treat the whole family!
  • A mentor was talking to their student and a major worry about losing their home was shared. The mentor followed up with LSS and we were able to point the parent to resources to hopefully mitigate the threat.
  • One mentor knew that their students parents both lost jobs weeks ago. They were able to drop off the students favoirte meal, a package of toilet paper and a HyVee gift card. The mentor said it was just a minor thing that they were able to do. But like many, the thought and consideration far outwiegh the monetary value.

When LSS put out an option for connecting via parent email (or e-mentoring) to mentors who meet at school, there was an overwhelming response! So many mentors are not only maintaining their relationship, they are deepening their connection. There has been interest in meeting outside of school by parents, students and mentors — knowing we just can’t count on being able to be reunited in the fall. Thanks to LSS implementing Climb and USucceed, we are able to fulfill those requests.

We have also heard from those mentors who are not able to get in touch with their student. They are worryied about them, but are also keeping them very close in their thoughts and prayers. We believe that is just as important now than ever.

Last Friday, President Obama shared on Instagram, “It doesn’t take a pandemic to see how vital mentorship programs are to our communities — they ensure young people, especially those group up in underserved neighborhoods, don’t get left behind.” LSS Mentors have proven their vitality time and time again. And we are so appreciative.

If you are interesting in supporting mentors and the students and families they serve, please consider a donation. If you are not able to give financially but are inspired by these stories and want to help, please consider applying to be a mentor. When we do make it out of this, the need for kids to have the extra support and encouragement a mentor can provide will be strong. And as soon as it’s safe to do so, you will be able to lift a child and families spirits just by showing up.

Post by Michelle Madsen
Director, LSS Mentoring Services

Adjustment, Acceptance and Self-Care

April 16, 2020

by Tricia Warner, CSW-PIP
Clinical Therapist, PATH Program, LSS Behavioral Health Services, Sioux Falls

The COVID-19 virus has changed all of our lives. We are social distancing by staying six feet apart from each other. We are postponing holiday gatherings. We are visiting our older loved ones through windows. We are wearing masks to the grocery store.

I miss my clients as I sit in my office hoping they will successfully transfer over to Telehealth due to the need to be apart for safety. I have concern for them, as I cannot see them in person. I hope they are faring well.

As with grief and loss, there are many difficult firsts with COVID-19. We had our first Easter with COVID-19 and its restrictions. First graduations without in-person ceremonies are coming up. First babies are being born without getting to have visitors in the hospital.

Like we have to adjust to grief and loss, we have to adjust to COVID-19. It is difficult in that the restrictions can change every day. Are we going to have to stay home much longer? Are summer activities going to happen? Are people going to be recalled to their jobs? How long will it be until I can hug my mother again?

There are many questions and no good answers right now; however, we must adjust and accept the trial we are in at this time. It will pass, but we don’t know quite when. Things will get better, but we don’t know quite how. Still, without having the answers, we must learn to cope with COVID-19.

Using mindfulness for coping and self-care is a good strategy in that it provides calmness and a distraction. Mindfulness is a practice during which we focus on the present and utilize ways to relax and focus. We slow down and step away from our technology as well during mindfulness practice. By caring for ourselves, we can build resiliency during stressful times.

“…we think about mindfulness as the ability to be present in the current moment, with awareness of our thoughts, emotions and sensations in the body and what is happening in our environment. Another aspect of mindfulness is cultivating curiosity and openness with what is present in you and around you.” (Salgado, 2016)

Some mindfulness techniques to try are as follows:

Body Mindfulness

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Notice the physical sensations in your body (air flowing in and out; any tight muscles, etc.).
  • Notice any thoughts that come and refocus on your body’s sensations, over and over if needed.
  • Stop after a few minutes.

Breathing Mindfully

  • Notice how you breathe normally. Do your chest and abdomen rise and fall with each breath?
  • Next, breathe deeply in and out and count this as 1. Continue deep breathing until you reach 10.

Mindfulness Walk

  • Keeping social distancing in mind, plan to take a slow walk.
  • Inhale deeply and exhale three times.
  • Begin walking and just go where you wish to.
  • Notice sensory things, such as the sight of the green grass, sound of a bird or the feel of the light wind on your face.
  • Notice what is holding your attention, such as the sight of tree branches being rustled by a breeze.
  • Take three deep breaths again. Note your feelings.

Mindfulness and Eating

  • Sit down in front of your meal. Look at and smell it.
  • Taste a bite of food. Chew slowly and savor this (direct experience).
  • Think about the flavoring and the coloring of the food you had (memory).
  • Taste another bite of food and really notice any feeling or sensation about the experience. Note the differences between the direct experience and the memory of eating the bites of food.

Mindfulness and Belonging Affirmations

  • Find a quiet and preferably private place.
  • Tell yourself three times: “I am good. I am loved. I have value.”
  • Think of someone you love and say: “You are good. You are loved. You have value.”
  • Next, consider people suffering due to COVID-19 and say: “You are good. You are loved. You have value.”
  • Think of a way to offer kindness to someone later in the day.

Source: Real World Mindfulness for Beginners, Edited by Brenda Salgado (2016)

Mental Health and the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 7, 2020

by Tricia Warner, CSW-PIP
Clinical Therapist, PATH Program, LSS Behavioral Health Services, Sioux Falls

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused great stress and a need for adaptation for even the most well-adjusted in our society. Consider those who have mental illnesses or addictions. For example, living with an anxiety disorder, depression or alcohol addiction can make it even more difficult to cope with constant updates about the sometimes deadly Coronavirus. Having to continually adjust one’s thinking, life and way of working—or having lost a job and seeking unemployment—with no end in sight, can take their toll. Regular stressors, such as financial, may become much more amplified. Having families home together all of the time while social distancing can be stressful, as well.

When there is a constant concern for safety, we may feel a need to fight or flight (run away) from the problem. These are adaptations that can be very useful. For example, being determined to get through this (fight), and avoiding the illness by staying away from others while social distancing (flight) are good things right now. There may be times we freeze and cannot think well also.

So what can help in this trial we are living through?

  • Know there is help available. There are local, state and national agencies to assist.  Although LSS continues to offer personal counseling on-site at all locations, telehealth services are a good alternative in today’s pandemic climate. LSS is here to listen, to help process the emotional impact on you and your family, and to help you better understand how this influences your own behavior as well as the behaviors of those around you. Learn more on the LSS website or call 1-855-334-2953 to schedule an appointment.

Nationally the Disaster Distress Helpline is there at 1-800-985-5990 and TTY 1-800-846-8517. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255. For Domestic Violence, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224. Consider your local counseling agency for visits with a therapist, either in person or through Telehealth. In South Dakota, call 211 for immediate support or visit the 211 Helpline for information on more resources.

  • Keep a routine. Know what is normal for you and monitor for any symptoms, such as difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Take your medications as prescribed. Control what you have control over. Take time to get good sleep, exercise and eat healthy foods. Monitor your thoughts. Meditate and focus on positives. Take deep breaths.
  • Take time to grieve losses. Whether it is the loss of a job or a loved one, take the time needed to grieve.
  • Take a break from the news. We are so connected to information like no time in the past, so are seemingly barraged with the new and changing directives regarding COVID-19 daily and sometimes hourly.
  • Spend time connecting with others. Talk with friends and family by telephone during social distancing for support.
  • Know that there are those who survived and thrived before, despite very difficult times. Various diseases were brought to the Native Americans that caused epidemics for them. The Spanish Flu of 1918 (H1N1) was a very deadly time for the world also when 500 million people or one-third of the world were infected. Other pandemics have occurred and gone.


Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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