City Hall VIPs

March 20, 2019

In early March, some of our students got the very cool chance to tour City Hall, meet Mayor Paul TenHaken, and learn more about their rights as people living and working in Sioux Falls.

A big THANK YOU! to Assistant City Attorney Katie Dunn and Human Relations Specialist Valerie Schonewill of the Sioux Falls Human Relations Office for welcoming us and teaching us more about our city government.

Meeting the Mayor!

We started our day in the Commission Room at City Hall, where Mayor TenHaken brought us Daylight Donuts and listened to each student introduce themselves. When the Mayor asked if there is anything they don’t like about Sioux Falls, a student said, “It’s too cold here, can you change that?” 🙂 On a more serious note, one of our students did share that he’s concerned that too many people drive cars in this city and that is harming our environment, and the Mayor shared this sentiment.

mayors office

Students and Teachers with Mayor Paul TenHaken.

Touring the Resources!

After a few group photos and selfies, the Mayor had another meeting to attend, so it was time for Katie and Valerie to take us around City Hall (such beautiful architecture!) and then we walked down to the Downtown Library to take a lap around the building and learn about the resources available there. I think we definitely could have stayed at the library for hours and would have been very happy!

city center

Listening to Assistant City Attorney Katie Dunn talk about the resources available at the City Center.

Understanding Our Rights!

Finally, we ended at the beautiful new City Center, where Katie gave the students “Know Your Rights” training and taught them about protected classes and discrimination. The information we received was very helpful as the students now have a clearer understanding of the rights of people living and working in Sioux Falls.


Getting ready to receive some training about their rights and to learn about employment and housing discrimination.

Overall, we had a great morning and loved getting to connect with our city officials! Thanks, City Hall, we’ll be back!

Please Join Us for the 22nd Annual Taste of Cultures Dinner and Silent Auction Event!

January 17, 2017

Saturday, March 4, 2017  6:30 pm

The District, Sioux Falls


Celebrate the diversity of our community with your support of LSS in raising funds to assist newcomers to resettle. Proceeds help to purchase groceries, assist with rent, purchase furniture, buy bus passes and purchase winter clothing for refugee families new to the country.

6:30 pm Dinner
– Enjoy Food from Around the World
– Wine, Bourbon & Whiskey Tasting
– Silent Auction

7:30 pm > Entertainment
– Live Music
– Cultural Dancing

Stay and enjoy the evening with music, friends and family

Ticket Options
General Admission Tickets > $40
General Admission Table of Eight > $300
VIP Tickets > $80 **Limited Quantity Available**
VIP Table of Eight > $640 **Limited Quantity Available**
– VIP tickets include premium seating, wine, bourbon & whiskey tasting

Limited seating, reserve seats early.

Tickets are available online. For ticket information call Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator, LSS Center for New Americans at 605-731-2009.

A pledge or contribution to support LSS services in the area will be requested.

If you are unable to attend but would like to make a donation; text TOC17 to 41444.  Your gift is greatly appreciated.




But What About My Chocolate?

September 9, 2016

That was a very serious question for me when I arrived from my native Germany to go to school in South Dakota so many years ago.  The closest World Market was in Denver, Colorado, and international food, especially groceries, hadn’t found its way yet to the middle of the American continent. Many, many care packages made their way across the ocean and my fellow international students and I would anxiously await the smells and tastes of home. I never knew which delicacies my mother would include in her package but I could be sure of one thing – there was always chocolate. Ritter Sport, to be exact, the queen of chocolate. Life couldn’t get any better than having a heavenly square of German chocolate melt in my mouth.

Rittersport chocolate, the queen of chocolate.

Rittersport chocolate, the queen of chocolate.


Roti bread is a staple in Nepalese cooking.

Roti bread is a staple in Nepalese cooking.

Fast forward a few years to 2016. Ritter Sport is still my absolute favorite chocolate but it now is only a short drive away. Sioux Falls has become home to thousands of immigrants and refugees who brought with them their cultures, their traditions and, of course, their food. World Market has come to Sioux Falls, along with a store that I grew up with, the ALDI grocery store. The city has adjusted well to the ever growing, multicultural taste buds. Almost every grocery store in Sioux Falls today carries a wide variety of foods and other items from all around the world.

You can also find many culture specific stores. What once was a place to buy musical instruments now houses a Somali store. Tucked neatly in the middle of a residential neighborhood is another African store. A small building right next to a huge parking lot is home to an Asian store. Several multicultural businesses can be found at one particular intersection. When a new store opens, it doesn’t stay new for long. Through word of mouth the clientele arrives at yet another place where they can find a home away from home.  And every single one of these stores carries chocolate!

An image of Injera, an East African sourdough-risen flatbread.

An image of Injera, an East African sourdough-risen flatbread.


A variety of Sushi rolls, a Japanese delicacy.

A variety of Sushi rolls, a Japanese delicacy.

Below are just a few examples of the large variety of ethnic stores in Sioux Falls, just to get you started. Be on the lookout when you drive around the city and you will make your own list.


10th and Blauvelt

Asian Food Market

10th and Blauvelt, 2 doors down from Mogadishu

Dar Es Salaam

Minnesota Ave and Brookings Street

Cultural Grocery Store

At the intersection of West, 6th and Burnside, next to laundromat

Alberi Store

West and Burnside

Than Mai Market

Rice Street, close to John Morrell

Written by Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor

From “No English” to “No interpreter”: Emma’s story

August 26, 2015

Emma started English classes before at the LSS Center for New Americans, but eventually stopped attending because she was tired from work.  “I was in Class 2 and 3, then…when I started my job in 1999, I don’t need English.”  Originally from Honduras, Emma first lived in California before coming to Sioux Falls for work.  “I come here…very, very nice…for job…for quiet.  I like my job.”

Emma eventually returned to English class and has now graduated to Level 4, but measures her English ability in a different way. “Now, I’m not nervous.  I go to the doctor…I go to the dentist…I don’t need interpreter.  I’m very, very happy.“ 

And that is the goal for most students attending English language classes.  In our most recent survey conducted this past spring, our students almost unanimously said that their goal in studying English was to be able to communicate with anyone in the community without the need of an interpreter.  On average more than 400 students attend our classes each month and more than 1,000 per year.  On our busiest day, 49 classes are offered!  The students attending classes from around the world–from more than 46 different countries.   Though their backgrounds are diverse, these students all share the same goal:  Fluency.

Emma, whose daily schedule goes like this: “I work 9 hours everyday.  I take a shower.  I eat.  I rest…maybe half an hour and I come here” would like to see more English classes offered in the evenings at the Center for New Americans. “I think we need 4 days of English,” she said before quickly slipping back into her classroom to join her classmates, classmates who have also worked full days at their own jobs and who come to class every Tuesday and Thursday evening to learn the language of the place they now all call “home.”

Volunteers are always welcome in our classes to provide support for our students as they learn English.  If you are interested in volunteering, please call 605-731-2000 or visit our website  to sign up!

Emma and her current teacher, Deanna

Emma and her current teacher, Deanna

Originally written by Kadie Becker, information updated by Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator Center for New Americans

Summer Fun: New American Style

July 23, 2015

Imagine growing up in the hot and humid, sub-tropical weather of southern Bhutan or in Eritrea where the average year-round temperature is 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  Now imagine you are resettled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota…in January.

Snow for the first time…ice…blizzard warnings…wind that hurts your face…(Talk about culture shock.)  Welcome to your new home! 

Now imagine the cold and snow slowly receding as green grass and bright flowers gradually emerge.

[Sigh]  Hello sunshine!  Hello warmth!  Hello summer!

For me, summer means early morning runs and dodging bikers on the bike trails.  It means skirts and sandals and eating my lunches outside.  It means using some of my vacation time to visit family, go camping, and spend some days beside a lake.

Curious about what our newer Americans enjoyed doing in the summer in Sioux Falls, I asked our high-level English students at LSS Center for New Americans, “What do you like to do in the summer in Sioux Falls?” Below is a list they compiled.

The Top Ten Things to do in the Summer in Sioux Falls

Falls Park (Photo courtesy of Greg Woods)

Falls Park (Photo courtesy of Greg Woods)

1) Visit Falls Park

2) Play tennis, soccer, or baseball

3) Go on a picnic

4) Go camping

5) Go swimming

Cooling off at one of Sioux Falls' many swimming pools (Photo courtesy of Julie Jordan Scott)

Cooling off at one of Sioux Falls’ many swimming pools (Photo courtesy of Julie Jordan Scott)

6) Ride a bike on the bike path

Photo courtsey of Dale Olson

Bike Path (Photo courtesy of Dale Olson)

7) Go to Thunder Road

Thunder Road (Photo courtesy of South Dakota PUblic Broadcasting photostream)

Thunder Road (Photo courtesy of South Dakota PUblic Broadcasting photostream)

8) Go to the zoo

The Great Plains Zoo is home to the Eastern Black Rhino, a native of East Africa.  (Photo courtesy of Greg Woods)

The Great Plains Zoo is home to the Eastern Black Rhino, a native of East Africa. (Photo courtesy of Greg Woods)

9) Go to a baseball game

10) Garden

Whether you’re a new American or you have lived here your whole life, summer is the perfect time to explore and enjoy what the city of Sioux Falls has to offer.

Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.   ~Wendell Berry

-Post by Kadie, LSS Center for New Americans

The $100 Week-Long Vacation

April 30, 2015


As the end of school approaches, my wife and I have started planning for the summer.  Having already taken a big trip, we aren’t really planning on any trips other than a couple of family reunions in the area.  None the less, we have some vacation time to use.  So what to do, what to do?  As we both look at taking vacation the week of July 4th, I think I have a week of vacation traveling planned for a mere $100.  Read the rest of this entry »

“Why Learn English?” What Learners are Saying

December 5, 2014

“Why do refugees and immigrants want to study English?” “What English do they want to learn?” “How can LSS Center for New Americans help them achieve their goals?

Seeking answers to questions like these was the reason Education Program Coordinator, Laura Smith-Hill, organized a Student Forum on October 13th, 2014. She said “The motivation behind the forum was the need to survey students and get their input about our adult education programming. We had previously gathered input through the LSS Client Satisfaction Surveys, but I was looking for a way to get more input in a way that was culturally appropriate and more accessible for our students.”

Approximately three hundred students gathered throughout the day and with the help of interpreters from Community Interpreter Services they were able to share their thoughts on such questions as “Why do you want to learn more English? What is difficult for you? What do you want to learn more about? What can we do to help you more?”

Laura shared that the main goal of many of the learners is “to be able to function independently in our community…to be completely self-sufficient. Our students want to be able to communicate with anyone and everyone in our community.”

Some student quotes include a desire to learn more English because “I want to speak and be understood” and “I want to talk to a doctor.” Many want to be able to talk with their children’s teachers and “help my children with school.” Another student said “If you have more English, you have a better life.”  

As the Coordinator for the Education Program at LSS and an Instructor, Laura was very pleased with the results of the forum. In addition to receiving concrete suggestions for improvement, the student forum also provided important feedback on what is going well. When asked “Do you like the classes and teachers at LSS?” learners’ responses included:

I learn a lot of English. I’m improving.

Teachers help us understand and not be afraid to talk.

Teachers speak slow and help when we don’t understand.

The teachers have good methods, respect, and commit themselves.

“These are important program pillars we need to maintain and keep building on” Laura said. When asked if she would like to do another forum in the future, Laura was very positive. “I would love to. If the learners want it, we want to provide it.”



Who? What? Where? When? Classes at the Center for New Americans

November 25, 2014

As a follow up to LSS President Betty Oldenkamp’s blog about the “most controversial and least understood” work being done at the Center for New Americans, I asked our Education Program Coordinator, Laura Smith-Hill to field some commonly asked questions by the public about classes held at LSS.

Education Program Coordinator, Laura Smith-Hill, with learners from her English classes

Education Program Coordinator, Laura Smith-Hill, with learners from her English classes

What kinds of classes are available at the Center for New Americans?

We offer four levels of English, three levels of Citizenship, STEP (Skills That Employ People) including Job-Specific English Classes, and Computer Classes.

Who can attend classes?

Any immigrant wanting to learn English can attend classes. Classes are free for everyone who has an immigrant visa and for those who don’t, they can attend by paying a small monthly fee.

When do you have classes?

We have English classes five times a day. Daytime hours are from 8-10, 10-12, 12:30-2:30, and 3-5 Monday through Thursday. Evening hours are from 6-8 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

We offer Citizenship classes in the evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays and on Saturday mornings.

How long does it take a student to progress through your program?

Every learner is different. The speed of program completion is contingent on the level of previous education, age, and penchant for language learning. We typically cycle through content every quarter and a learner is allowed to repeat until they have mastered that levels content.

Where do learners who graduate from your program typically go afterwards?

Some learners continue their education at Southeast Technical Institute to study for their G.E.D. Some learners attend Kilian Community College’s Bridges Program to prepare for higher education. And some learners go directly to local colleges’ and universities’ education programs.

How can I get involved?

 Contact Kristyne, our volunteer coordinator, at 731-2009 to start the process to become a volunteer classroom assistant.

Over 400 students pass through the doors for classes at the Center for New Americans new home at 114 S. Main Ave

Over 400 students pass through the doors for classes at the Center for New Americans new home at 114 S. Main Ave

A Day in the Life of a Financial Counselor

September 29, 2014

Editors note: This week, each department is following the theme of “A Day In The Life Of…”. In order to help people better understand what we do, we want to share a bit of what each day looks like for us. Today is your opportunity to learn a little more about the Center for Financial Resources. Please check back each day to find out about a new department within the LSS family.

“I have so many bills from the hospital, they are piling up. I don’t even open them anymore since I have no way to pay for them.”

“I want to get my own place, but I can barely get by each month with my school loan.”

“I couldn’t take care of everything so I used my credit cards to make ends meet. Now I can’t pay for those either.”

“I am trying to get a fresh start, and I have no clue on what I should do. I need help.”

Everyday someone calls in or comes in with something different, and they areCassie finally ready to make a change. I get calls from individuals who just need a question answered about the apartment they are renting, or someone wanting to meet to see what their budget is, or where their debt is and get pointed in the right direction.

There is no such thing as a typical day as a financial counselor. Whenever somebody comes in their situation is different than anyone else’s, but the most important thing for anyone to remember is that everyone has something that they are working on improving. I have had days where I see a single mother or father raising kids on their own who need help finding assistance and taking care of their debt, I have seen married couples who did not know how far in the hole they were and need a budget to get back on track, someone wanting help looking at their credit report to see what’s out there, the list goes on and on.

When someone leaves my office they are ready to take the next steps to getting their finances in order. They may be starting on our Debt Management Program, consolidating their debt, going through the steps to refinance or modify their home, or just taking each step one at a time and remembering to breath.

In what ever way the day is going it is always filled with helping others, and it is truly something I enjoy. It is not easy for someone to share their situation, but just remember that walking in the door is usually the hardest part for making a change. Speaking for myself and all the other financial counselors out there, we just want to help get things moving in the right direction. So don’t be afraid to come see us!

I see:

  • College students looking at school loan consolidation
  • Single mothers/fathers raising a family on their own and struggling
  • Husbands or wives with a spouse on disability
  • Couples trying to get their budget/debt all figured out
  • Business owners barely breaking even
  • Individuals on the path to recovery from addiction and ready to get finances in order

I help:

  • All of these people alleviate some stress by knowing that they can do with their situation
  • They usually see that it wasn’t as bad as the thought… or even if it is, they have a betterunderstanding of what to do now.
  • Landlord/tenant phone calls
  • Filing bankruptcy and what to do after
  • Calling creditors and collections with the person
  • I help those on our debt management plan get their payments to creditors
  • I help look over Credit Bureau Reports to see what’s been reported

written by Cassandra Prusha
Image courtesy Cassandra Prusha

Rally Rewind

August 5, 2014

This morning, over 100 guests came to Lincoln High School to show their support for LSS Mentoring Services. Muffins were ate, coffee was drank, and new mentors were recruited.

The event kicked off with Randell Beck, Community Relations Director at Avera McKennan, and Chair of the 20140805_082234Everyday Heroes committee talking about how mentoring has changed his life. Randell spoke of his mentee, saying that he is a smart young man, and the sky is the limit for his potential. Read the rest of this entry »

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