January 16, 2018

“What movement tried to end racial discrimination?” The Civil Rights Movement
“What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?” Fought for civil rights

As a Citizenship Class instructor, I have the privilege of sharing about the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. every session. Before discussing the 1960s, we cover the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, and the Emancipation Proclamation. The focus then jumps to World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II before moving to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. The history questions for the Naturalization Interview do not hide the long history of slavery in the United States. Students learn early in the session that slavery existed in the “thirteen original colonies.”

“What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?” People from Africa

To help students understand “racial discrimination” and what life was like in the United States for many African Americans following the Civil War and during the time of Dr. King, we often look at the infamous pictures of segregated water fountains and bathrooms. I tend to avoid the darker pictures of lynchings and angry mobs, not wanting to rouse any post-traumatic stress in our refugee and immigrant clients.

In reality, they “know” discrimination in a much deeper sense than me, their instructor. Many experienced racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination in their own countries. The Nepali-speaking refugees from Bhutan, the Kunama refugees from Eritrea, the Karen and Karenni refugees from Myanmar and many other minority groups that we serve at the Center for New Americans fled or were expelled from unbearable conditions.



(Photo courtesy of AND JUSTICE FOR ALL)


Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote the lines above in 1963 from where he sat in a Birmingham jail following mass demonstrations of organized civil disobedience. Its truth rang loudly when it was first read, and continues to resonate reality today. I love my job and I love interacting with and learning more about my students, but their daily presence is also a stark reminder that gross injustices have occurred and continue to occur in many of their countries. I am grateful they now live in the United States without fearing for their lives. I am grateful for the rights guaranteed them and protecting them in the Bill of Rights and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but I wonder about their family and friends not here…those still in the refugee camps, those still in their native countries. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” My students remind me that we are all responsible for each other.

Written by Kadie Becker; Reposted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor

Better Together in Brookings

January 10, 2018

Pat and Sue are a great Better Together match. Click on the video above to watch their story!

Better Together, a program of Lutheran Social Services designed to improve quality of life activities for older adults, has expanded to Brookings!

The program started in Sioux Falls in January 2015 in collaboration with the Sioux Empire United Way. In early 2017, LSS contracted with a consulting firm to look at opportunities to expand the program beyond Sioux Falls. Brookings was the community identified through this process as being the most capable and ready for Better Together.

To help carry out the program in Brookings, LSS has partnered with the Volunteer Service Bank. This organization, embarking on its 25th year of service will assist with local coordination and will help both volunteers and seniors get started.

In the program, trained volunteers will be matched with an older adult based on similar interests and schedule. Volunteer and older adult matches will spend four hours per month together going on outings, talking, pursuing hobbies, and other relationship-building activities.

With nearly half of people aged 65 and older in South Dakota living alone, there is need to use volunteers to help maintain or reestablish a connection to their community.

If you are interested in volunteering for the program in Brookings, apply here. If you know of an older adult who would benefit from this service, please let them know to call us at 444-7801 or complete an intake application.

Post by Michelle Madsen

January is National Mentoring Month

January 5, 2018
fb_cover_photo_720x406_72_RGBJanuary is National Mentoring Month, and this year LSS is celebrating the annual campaign aimed at expanding quality mentoring opportunities to connect more of our community’s young people with caring adults.

Last January, LSS welcomed a dozen new mentors. We hope recruit 31 new mentors this year – one each day during the month of January.

Research shows that mentors play a powerful role in providing young people with the tools to make responsible choices, attend and engage in school, and reduce or avoid risky behavior like drug use. In turn, these young people are:

  • 55% more likely to be enrolled in college
  • 81% more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities.
  • 78% more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities.
  • More than twice as likely to say they held a leadership position in a club or sports team.
Yet, the same research shows that one in three young people in our country will grow up without a mentor. Today, in our community there is at least one student at each public school in Lincoln and Minnehaha county — in other words, at least one kid in every neighborhood — who could benefit from having a mentor.
National Mentoring Month is the time of year where engagement from community members interested in becoming a mentor is highest. This year, with the support of the mentoring community, we are encouraging the public to go beyond just digital engagement – and become involved in real life. Mentoring relationships are at their best when connections are made between a caring adult and a young person who knows that someone is there to help guide them through those real life decisions.
LSS will host a Mentoring Try-It Session on January 23, 11:30-12:30 at Harvey Dunn Elementary. If you are thinking about becoming a mentor, please email us at or call 221-2403 to register for this event today.
National Mentoring Month is led by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, with support from the Highland Street Foundation. To learn more about the role mentoring plays in our community and to find
volunteer opportunities, click here.
Post by Michelle Madsen

New Year’s Traditions

January 2, 2018

Every year I find that my students share similar New Year’s traditions, but there are also unique traditions for each country.

The Ethiopian New Year is September 11, known as Enkutatash in Amharic or “Gift of Jewels.”  Traditionally this holiday commemorates the return of the Queen of Sheba from a visit to King Solomon.  It also occurs at the end of the rainy season when Ethiopia is flourishing and flowers are plentiful.   In the morning, after a church service, young girls go from door to door singing and bringing flowers, young boys paint pictures of saints and play soccer games, and adults enjoy the day with beer and camaraderie.  Incidentally the Ethiopian calendar is 8 years behind ours, so it is 2010 this year!

ethiopian new year meskel-flowers

Ethiopian flowers in bloom for the New Year

When doing some research I found that there are actually 9 different New Year’s days in Nepal, the official one is based off the Nepal Sambat calendar (which is 56.7 years ahead of our calendar, so we will be ringing in 2075 this year!)  This holiday is celebrated between April 11 and 15, announcing in the spring season.  The day is celebrated with picnics, parades, soccer and volleyball games, religious rites, and gifts and cards.  People take time to consider both the past and the future and make resolutions for the coming year (sounds familiar!).


Dancers celebrating one of the many New Years in Nepal

We of course cannot forget about the Chinese New Year.  Following the Chinese lunisolar calendar, the Chinese New Year starts the end of January or beginning of February and lasts 15 days.  Homes are thoroughly cleaned and decorated with red, old debts must be paid, gifts of money are exchanged, and it is common to light firecrackers.  Cleaning the home removes all bad luck, and allows the new luck to prosper.  This year Chinese New Year is February 16.


Chinese New Year Festivities

A little closer to home, Guatemalans celebrate with music, dance, colorful costumes and fireworks.  People gather at the center of town to celebrate together.  There are two essential dances that hail from Hispanic colonists, el Baile de Moros y Cristianos and la Quema de Toritos y Alas.  The first dance represents the defeat of the Moors by the Christian Spaniards.  The second combines both dance and fireworks when a man dressed as a bull parades through the town and fireworks shoot from his “wings,” lighting up his path.

danceofmorosandchristians (1)

The Dance of the Moors and the Christians


The Burning of the Bulls and the Wings


Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year, no matter how you celebrate!

Written by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor

Joy to the World

December 19, 2017

And joy to the world it was – literally—as the Center for New Americans celebrated the holiday season with staff and students from four different continents on Thursday, December 14. Cultural and language barriers became insignificant as everyone sat down to taste each others’ culinary delights and share some intercultural dance moves. Even Santa couldn’t stay away!

christmas dancing 1      christmas-santa.jpg

Students spent the week learning about traditional American culture through songs, singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and performed during the World Festival Celebration.  Students also shared their traditional music and dances: Danto from Somalia, Cumbia and Bachata from Mexico, in addition to lots of Nepali dances.  And the food was bountiful.  Students, teachers, and volunteers alike brought time honored finger foods: Cheese and crackers from the United States, sambusa from Africa, pulcra from Bhutan,  and “famous roses” from Thailand.  It was a beautiful day to celebrate the end of 2017.

christmas-food.jpg  christmas food 3  christmas food 2

christmas food 4

christmas students 2

christmas dancing 2


All of us here at the Center for New Americans Wish You a Happy New Year! 

Santa’s Elves are Coming to Town

December 15, 2017

IMG_1031Everyone knows that Santa has helpers all across our community, but did you know that some of those helpers are actually elves who work for Howalt+McDowell Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company?

This Christmas elves from Howalt+McDowell joined staff from LSS in helping Santa complete his shopping list for youth and families served through LSS Foster Care Services.

Armed with wish lists from the youth, our happy helpers piled up their sleighs to help fill Jolly Old Saint Nick’s sack to provide presents for 28 youth and their foster care families.

This is the second year that Howalt+McDowell has participated in this holiday giving event with LSS and  Christy Westerman described the opportunity as a way to pay it forward.

Howalt-McDowell Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency has a long history of supporting our community in various ways.  As a Sales Executive, I am provided the opportunity to sponsor an event of my choice.  As Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, I wanted it IMG_1016to be something that would bring joy and happiness to families during the Christmas season.    We are very fortunate to work with Lutheran Social Services and understand the important services LSS brings to our community.  Therefore, in collaboration with my colleagues, Tracy Dahl-Webb and Jared Ducommun, we were able to sponsor the 2nd year of shopping for children that are currently in foster care under Lutheran Social Services.  As you can see by the smile on our faces, I’m not sure who receives more of the joy and happiness, the givers or the receivers.

Seems as though the elves had as much fun shopping for the presents as the youth will have opening and playing with them!

We cannot thank those at Howalt+McDowell enough for their continued support and commitment to the LSS mission of Strengthening Individuals, Families and Communities for their continued support of LSS Foster Care Services.

You can join Howalt+McDowell by bringing the spirit of holidays to youth in need. Youth in our residential centers throughout the state have also written wish lists to the North Pole (lists are detailed below).

You help expedite the Santa delivery service by purchasing one of those items today and dropping them by one of our LSS locations or by making a donation to LSS Residential Services here.

 LSS Residential Services Holiday Wish List
– Wii games and controllers
– Volleyballs, Nerf balls, footballs, basketballs, soccer balls
– Card games/decks of cards
– Board Games and puzzles
– T-shirts and sweatshirts
– Gift cards for movie tickets, pizza, Juice Stop
– Books: ages 10 to 18
– Arts & crafts supplies, magazines for projects
– Duffel bags
– Quilts
– Personal hygiene products: shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, lotion, tampons, razors, shave gel, toothbrushes (new and in package), toothpaste, nail clippers, shower gel, toilet paper
– Bean bag toss
– Toys – (My Little Pony, Barbies, Stuffed Animals)
– Xbox360
– Good lumber for kids projects: building birdhouses, doghouses, and more
– Fishing poles & equipment
– Cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, paper towels
– Extra long twin sheet sets, extra long mattress pads, new pillows, blankets/quilts
– Bath towels

Post by Jamie Lennon


December 13, 2017

One hour a week may not seem like much time, but you might be surprised by how much2017 mentoring graphic bandw that little bit of time means to a child. Kurt Turbak, a professional school counselor at Hawthorne Elementary School, said it best.

If you do not hear it frequently from your student, please know you are appreciated and loved. Many of our students become anxious this time of year knowing their holiday expectations will not be met, and they will lose their consistency of seeing friends and mentors over the break.

Please realize you give our students the biggest gift they can receive during the holidays every week that you come to see them. The gift of your time is something our students greatly treasure but most cannot put into words, so I will do it for them. Thank you for your commitment and generosity of your time and for being YOU!

At LSS, we appreciate mentors time, energy and compassion too! Hawthorne Elementary has posters displayed with the word “Ubuntu.” It is an old African philosophy that is taught throughout the school. The concept is “I am who I am because you are who you are.”

Whether you are involved in Everyday Heroes or USucceed mentoring programs or a supporter of LSS, thank you for being who you are.

Last year, LSS mentors made a significant impact on the lives of 1,355 children. Now, take a moment to imagine the impact of that one hour each week. Making a positive impact on the lives of others makes me proud to be part of LSS. This is what we do better than anyone else!

But the reality is there are operational costs for a program like this to exist. The cost per match is $93 per year. This is less than half of the national average. Would you consider sending a financial gift this holiday season to support LSS Mentoring Services? Your gift will help recruit, screen, and match new volunteer mentors with local students. It helps support and sustain matches already made. It also helps provide ongoing training for mentors throughout the year on topics such as bullying, poverty, and safety.

Visit to make a secure online donation. Your continued support is needed to provide ongoing services. Your gift will be designated to LSS Mentoring Services and will directly benefit students and mentors in the program.

With your gifts, we can sustain the work of making more children feel the importance of a mentor in their lives.

%d bloggers like this: