When We All Work Together

June 19, 2018

“There is no “us” or “them”. We are different, yes, but in the same way that we are different from anyone else. We have all lived different experiences, and some of us are privileged to have experienced the lives that we have.”—Tea Student 2
The Tea Area High School Spanish instructor, Ms. Mahli Garry, and 6 of her Spanish III students along with students from Mitchell, SD, spent the morning with our students during their English classes. The students had the opportunity to observe and interact with English learners at all levels.
Additionally Ms. Garry and her students had a school-wide fundraiser raising 144 folders, 67 notebooks, 876 erasers, 2957 pencils for the students at LSS. The class who could raise the most had the opportunity to pie their teacher, and Ms. Garry was the honored recipient.


LSS Education Program Assistant Diana Streleck, Tea Area Spanish Instructor Mahli Garry, and Tea Spanish III students with supplies raised for the LSS students.

After visiting LSS, students reflected on their experience. One student (3) said, “The days leading up to the trip I was quite nervous. I had no idea what to expect from these refugees. I honestly didn’t want to go on the trip all together. I felt like I was going to be so out of my comfort zone that it would be ‘painful.’” But now, “This experience will have quite a lasting effect on me. Actually getting to see the refugees and understand the process a refugee must go through to get relocated to a place such as LSS was a very humbling moment.”
Additionally a student commented, “I had many favorite moments during the trip, but I enjoyed hearing about the various cultures. I knew that I was confronting the description of ‘America is a melting pot’ head on.” And yet another student remarked, “Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the students at Lutheran Social Services. I would highly recommend this field trip to other high school students. This was an amazing opportunity to gain a better understanding of our area and the world we live in. With all of the talk in the media, I feel that it is important for students to have the opportunity to form their own opinions of the world and the people that live within it.”


Students from Tea visit one-on-one with LSS English students.

LSS ESL Instructor Supervisor Laura Smith-Hill said, “[The high school] students did a wonderful job interacting with ours and I am so pleased that they continue to find value in this experience as do we.”
This is the third consecutive year that Ms. Garry and her Spanish students have had toured and volunteered in classes as a cross-cultural field trip. A big Thank You Ms. Garry and the Spanish III class for your dedication and continued support.


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

October 18, 2017


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.”


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.”


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


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 Success Story

July 10, 2017


I first met Nadifa six years ago – a bright-eyed, inquisitive young girl. And today, with this blog, I am proud to introduce to you a still bright-eyed, inquisitive young lady: Nadifa, US citizen.

Born in the North African nation of Chad, Nadifa spent most of her life in Cameroon before coming to Sioux Falls with her parents, three brothers, three sisters and her grandmother. Nadifa was full of questions, she wanted to know everything, she wanted to learn everything she didn’t have the opportunity to learn back in Africa. Soon, her school enrolled her and her brother in a tutoring program to help with English and other subjects taught in American schools. I became their tutor. Nadifa’s brain was like a sponge, asking for more and more and more.

From the moment she set foot on American soil Nadifa was happy. Why? I asked her. Because, she said, everything is readily available here, we don’t have to walk for a long, long time just to pick up the bare necessities. And my whole family, we can all be together. And after 6 1/2 years in Sioux Falls, Nadifa is still happy. She values the educational opportunities available to her, as a woman, here in Sioux Falls. She graduated from high school and is continuing her education. She is studying sociology at USD, hoping to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 2020 and at the same time is working full-time as a food ambassador at Avera. She is proud of her independence – she has her own apartment, her own car and her own money – yet stays close to her family. Family, she says, is so very important, they are the best support system, they will always stick together.

After graduation, Nadifa hopes to find a job where she can help people – refugees, immigrants, actually anybody and everybody. She likes to keep busy. So, besides school and work, she volunteers at CNA as a classroom tutor, helping immigrants learn English, the first step to becoming a citizen. Was it important for her to become a citizen? Yes, definitely. I like living in the US, she says, and I feel much safer being a citizen. Going to high school here and learning about history and government helped her with preparing for the naturalization test.

And how is life different for young ladies here in the United States? She thinks that some of them take advantage of the freedom they have here. They are easily influenced by their peers and the local environment and they lose sight of their dreams and goals. She says she was raised to cover up – to cover her head and to cover her body with appropriate clothing. And she still dresses that way. In high school, she says, she was often teased by her peers, “Why don’t you upgrade to America?” But Nadifa didn’t feel the need to do that. She says, it’s important to feel comfortable with yourself, to always be yourself and do the right thing for yourself. And to never forget the value of family.

Always encourage – never criticize

Work hard and never stop dreaming


Written by Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor

The Great Pumpkin

October 25, 2016


This week I have noticed the leaves changing on the trees from lovely green to bright yellow and red. The frost covers the grass in the mornings, and the sun hides until about 7 o’clock.  It is most definitely autumn!

With autumn come Halloween and Thanksgiving, two decidedly different holidays, but which hold a common thread…PUMPKIN! Everywhere I look I see pumpkins…pumpkins on front porches, pumpkins at road side stands, pumpkins in the grocery store, pumpkins on my kitchen table…autumn is definitely the time to enjoy carving pumpkins…and cooking pumpkins! I don’t know of anything better than fresh homemade pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving…

However, pumpkin doesn’t just excite Americans; pumpkin is a staple in many, many countries. My African students eat pumpkin, my Asian students eat pumpkin, my European students eat pumpkin, my Central American students eat pumpkin…basically ALL my students eat pumpkin regardless of where they are from.  And it’s not just served in pumpkin pie!

My Nepali students in particular happily inform me that they eat pharsi with rice when we discuss pumpkins in class.   Recently my Oral 1 (beginning literacy) students from Nepal and Burma shared their favorite way to cook pumpkin, and I thought it would be nice to share a new pumpkin recipe with you.

Nepali/Burmese Pumpkin Recipe


2-3 chili peppers (maybe 5!)

Small pumpkin (peel, cut, and cook)

3 potatoes

1/2 onion

1 c of water

2-3 medium tomatoes

Add garlic, ginger, cumin, and turmeric.


Cook all together. Put on rice.  Eat.  Enjoy!

Written by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor

What’s Your Superpower?

May 18, 2016

I’m a Volunteer… What’s your superpower? That’s what the Helpline Center asked last Thursday, May 12th during the 2016 Spirit of Volunteerism Awards luncheon.  The annual event celebrates those individuals in the community who share their superpower and help others by volunteering.  One outstanding volunteer that we want to give a special congratulation to is Eric Rippentrop.  Eric was named the First National Bank in Sioux Falls Spirit of Volunteerism Up and Coming Award winner in the Adult category at the luncheon on Thursday for his work at LSS Center for New Americans.  Winners of the Spirit of Volunteerism Awards received a special award plague and received $500 to be awarded to a non-profit or charitable organization of their choice.

Showing off his superpower at the 2016 Spirit of Volunteerism Awards luncheon.

Showing off his superpowers with Instructor Diana Calvetti-Streleck and Volunteer Coordinator Kristyne Walth at the 2016 Spirit of Volunteerism Awards luncheon.

Eric is a regular face in the Center for New American’s Citizenship classrooms every Friday and Saturday morning. You may also remember him from our blog back in February.   He has spent over 100 hours over the last year helping students acquire the English fluency and knowledge that is required for a citizenship interview and test.  Instructor Diana Calvetti-Streleck says that, “Without Eric’s help in the classroom, my group of more than 35 low-level English learners would not receive the one-on-one practice they need to overcome their anxiety of speaking English to answer oral questions.”  Eric has been a wonderful volunteer and we cannot thank him enough for his time, energy and encouraging words.

Eric with his award.

Eric with his award.

However, if you asked Eric, he would tell you that he feels that he “gets more from volunteering than he could ever hope to give.” And in an effort to give more, he has chosen LSS Center for New Americans as the non-profit organization to receive the $500 award.


Please help us congratulate and better yet, thank Eric and all of the other winners, nominees, and volunteers in the Sioux Empire for sharing their superpower to help others. And lastly, we ask you too, what’s your superpower?


Written by Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator

A Volunteer? Priceless…

April 17, 2015

April is National Volunteer Month and on behalf of the Center for New Americans, our education instructors, and our 400 English learners, we want to say “THANK YOU” to our Classroom and Mentor Volunteers


Thank you for your consistency in showing up week after week.
Thank you for being willing to put yourself in unfamiliar situations and express welcome to those newly arrived.
Thank you for speaking slowly and clearly.
Thank you for your patient repetitions and for all the smiles and encouraging head nods that speak volumes of respect and compassion.
Thank you for the opportunity your presence gives for our learners to have authentic communication with native speakers.
Thank you for being a another pair of English “eyes” and “ears” in our large English classes.
Thank you for being “second teachers” so our learners maximize the time they have in class.
Thank you for the “Namaste,” the “See you next week,” the “Good job!” with which you cheerfully send our learners off after every class.


Tamayo Dale and Students

We are so grateful for you and believe fully that the quality of our program is reflected in the quality of our faithful volunteers.

Thank you for your partnership in our work of welcoming.

Life books make a difference!

April 3, 2015

Four years ago, the LSS Foster Care Program in conjunction with R Scrapbook Store and Life 96.5 started the Life Book Project.  As we prepare for our 4th annual Life Book volunteer event, we are humbled with the community support we have received through this event.  Not only has this event brought many life book supplies and pages to kids and families that would not have otherwise had access to them, but what our staff, kids, and families have gained through this has been immeasurable.  Read the rest of this entry »

Does Home Ownership Make You American?

March 13, 2015

I recently had the opportunity to attend a week of training in Los Angeles. With something like 1800 people attending different classes, I knew I was going to meet some interesting people. Our respective homes stretched from Florida to California. I actually had a classmate from western South Dakota in my class as well as someone from Guam. How’s that for diversity? Talk about a lot of different perspectives!

Half way through the week I went to lunch with Victoria and Tamy and have since spent days processing through our conversation. Victoria immigrated to the US from Ecuador as an adult and now lives in Tampa. Tamy immigrated to the US at the age of 23. She and her family were refugees from Viet Nam after her father spent 10 years in prison for working with the US military. Tamy now lives in California. I quickly realized that I have lived a very ‘normal’, quiet life. Read the rest of this entry »

Meet the Blogger: Kristyne Walth

March 11, 2015

As the Volunteer Coordinator at the Center for New Americans, I can tell you that no two days are the same for me.  And I LOVE it!  At times I wear many different hats.  My first hat is helping to recruit and coordinate volunteers at the Center for New Americans. Many of our volunteers assist our instructors with our adult learners in the ESL and Citizenship classrooms.  Other volunteers spend their time as mentors, working closely with a newly arrived family and helping them adjust to living in Sioux Falls.  I really enjoy this part of my position because it allows me to meet so many wonderful people.  Our awesome volunteers all share the same passion–helping refugees become self-sufficient!  I also get to see the successes of our clients, like seeing their language skills grow as they attend classes or when they call to tell me about their new job!  And I get to see them experience some of their “firsts” here in America, like their first American potluck last weekend where they tried Jell-O and played Jenga for the first time!  Hopefully you share this passion also and want to get involved!  You can go to http://www.lsssd.org/family_services/refugee/volunteer.html and become a volunteer!!

IMG_1642 IMG_1666

Read the rest of this entry »

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