I believe…

September 20, 2017


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



A Double Celebration

July 10, 2014

On Wednesday, July 2nd three staff from LSS Center for New Americans—Solomon from Eritrea, Julia from Russia, and Lwe from Burma—became American citizens following a Naturalization Ceremony at beautiful and historic Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. After the holiday weekend, I was able to catch up with Solomon, a case aid and Kunama interpreter, and Julia, an English instructor, about their experience.

Solomon arrived in the U.S. as a refugee in 2006. He was 21 years old and attended college in the United States.

“Solomon, why did you want to be an American citizen?”

I am going to live here a long time. It was important to upgrade my [immigration] status. Citizenship can benefit many things…for traveling, participate in voting.

“Does Independence Day mean anything different to you now?”

It is like…a double celebration for me now, you know. 

Solomon at Mount Rushmore

Solomon at Mount Rushmore


Solomon "meeting" George Washington at the Naturalization Ceremony

Solomon “meeting” George Washington at the Naturalization Ceremony

Julia immigrated to the United States from Russia with her husband, a naturalized American citizen from Nicaragua, nine years ago. They have two little girls. Julia shared that her decision to become a United States citizen evolved around her family and their future. “Everyone in my family is an American citizen. World politics are not very stable between our two countries [Russia and the U.S.] and none of us know what will happen in the future. We have to be in the same boat.”

Julia and George Washington

Julia and George Washington

Julia considers the Black Hills one of the most beautiful places on earth and especially enjoyed hiking in them during this last visit. “They are so relaxing. I understand why this area is considered a sacred place to Native Americans. It is so inspiring.”

Her family stayed in the Black Hills for several days taking in Bear Country, the Reptile Gardens, Keystone, and many other sights, but she already has plans for what their next trip will entail. “Caving, if the girls will let us.”

Congratulations Solomon, Julia, and Lwe, our newest Americans!

Series: Karenni Success Story

December 12, 2013

Continuing a series on the five largest ethnic groups resettled by the RIC in Sioux Falls in the last five years.  Upcoming blog posts will focus on the following topics: Conflict History, Cultural Differences, and New American Success Stories.  Please join us as we learn together about our new neighbors and their courageous stories.

New American Series: The Karen and Karenni (of Burma)

New American Success Story:

Today’s interview was done at the home of Meh Reh and Klaw Meh, a Karenni refugee family who was resettled to Sioux Falls in March 2009.  Their daughter, Pray Meh, a graduate of Lincoln High School last year, was also included in the interview.

I asked Meh Reh to tell me about their life in Burma.  They are from the Karenni state where Meh Reh worked as a farmer.  In 1989 they fled to neighboring Thailand.  “Because fighting” Meh Reh said quietly.  In the twenty years they lived in Thailand, they were forced to move to three different refugee camps.  At their third camp, Pray Meh, their oldest of four children, was born.  Read the rest of this entry »

91 New Americans Visit Their New Capital

June 5, 2013

Pierre bus Pierre bus 2

Pierre chatPierre ducks Pierre group pic Pierre Iman Pierre meeting Pierre monument Pierre Namaste Pierre walk Pierre wave

On March 5, 2013, 91 refugee and immigrants representing 15 different countries took a field trip with LSS President and CEO Betty Oldenkamp, their English teachers, and other LSS staff to Pierre, the capital of South Dakota.

“This is a big day for me!” said a man from Iraq, who came to South Dakota after fleeing persecution. Many refugees had no right to speak with government officials in their country of birth—in fact, government officials were oftentimes the people hunting and persecuting them.

But here in South Dakota, the new Americans found themselves welcomed—in fact, at one point when Lieutenant Governor Michels introduced them to State Senate and House chambers, they received a standing ovation!

The group, which represents an annual student body of 1,000 refugees and immigrants from 35 different countries, spent time learning about South Dakota history, U.S. citizenship, and civic engagement. They met South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, representatives from the SD Department of Labor and Regulation, and members of the State Senate and House of Representatives.

Thanks to the Department of Labor and Regulation and Lutheran Social Services for sponsoring the event.

You can help welcome new Americans by making a financial gift to LSS today.

[Post by Laura S-H and Amy S.Z.]

[Photos by volunteer photographer Barbara Addengast]

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