Volunteer of the Year: 2021

October 26, 2021

Karen: LSS 2021 Volunteer of the Year

The English classrooms at the Center for New Americans rely heavily on the support and expertise of volunteers. Volunteers aid the teacher in classroom management (both online and in person), assist one-on-one tutoring, lead classroom and small group activities, and provide support to the teachers in numerous ways.

Each year the Education Program has the opportunity to honor one of our hardworking volunteers and nominate them for the Distinguished Volunteer of the Year Award for LSS of SD. This past week, our nominee, Karen Kraus, was recognized at the 2021 Distinguished Volunteer of the Year.

Here’s her nomination:
Karen Kraus started volunteering at the LSS Center for New Americans on 12/14/2016. Since her first day she has provided 460 hours of ESL classroom help for our adult Refugee and Immigrant students.

She has worked with all the English class levels and has also tutored one-to-one a student who had no prior literacy with the challenging task of learning to decode. Karen has been an amazing volunteer – flexible and consistent – in supporting the Education Program at LSS.

When the pandemic closed our in-person classrooms, she reached out to her assigned teacher to see how she could still help. While volunteers typically work once a week for two hours, she joined the online students in Zoom every day until other volunteers could be trained. At the training meetings, she was able to speak with the other volunteers, answering their questions about how it felt to assist in Zoom. She encouraged them to jump in and continue to help out even if they could not see the student due to technology challenges. She spoke about how the students still needed their volunteers more than ever in the Zoom Classrooms.

Karen brings amazing qualities and skills to our English Language Classes at LSS. Patient, insightful and collaborative – Karen communicates clearly and effectively with true beginners. She is a talented co-teacher in any classroom and a treasured partner in the team effort that is equipping our adult English learners with knowledge of the language, literacy and the content they need to communicate and succeed as new residents of South Dakota.

Here are a few of Karen’s insights about volunteering at LSS Center for New Americans.

What are some of your favorite memories from working with a student/in class?
I especially have enjoyed the following experiences:

o Assisting a student who just sounded out a word and seeing the big smile on their face!

o I love it when a joke is shared and understood even through our language barriers!

o The students call all of us “Teacher.” I can tell it is a term of honor by the way they say it.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering at CNA?
For me, it feels like an honor to be a small part of an English Language Learners’ journey. I strongly encourage anyone who might be interested to give this a try. The classroom teachers will first ask you to observe, then will give you direction on how to work directly with students. It’s a chance to meet people from other cultures, right here in Sioux Falls. I learn so much. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and it allows me to volunteer in a meaningful way.

Would YOU like to join our team as a classroom volunteer?
Contact diana.streleck@lsssd.org
Apply Here

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

Fear of What-Ifs

October 25, 2017

When I speak in the community as a presenter, I often hear from individuals that they have always been interested in volunteering with refugees and immigrants but were too scared to get involved.  They each had different fears that stopped them:  some were worried about the language barrier and not being able to communicate; some were nervous about making a cultural faux pas and offending someone; some were concerned about finding common ground and finding interesting activities; some were anxious about being unqualified to be a teacher and help in a classroom.  All of these fears stopped them from pursing a passion of theirs.  They focused on the “what-ifs” and missed out meeting new people and new experiences.


Maybe you’re feeling this way too.  You’ve seen stories on social media and thought, “I should get involved.”  But the fearsome “what-ifs” always creep up and stops you. My advice to you and anyone is to turn those frightening “what-ifs” into positive “what-ifs”.  Instead of thinking “what if we can’t communicate”; try thinking “what if I make a new friend?”  What if I learn a new recipe? What if I discover a hidden talent?  What if I help a 72-year-old grandmother of 6 learn to write for the first time?  What if I share a holiday with a new refugee family, who are separated from family by thousands of miles?  There are so many positives that happen when you move past the fear.  Volunteering can change lives, including your own.  And you know what?  It’s ok to feel nervous and to have those fears.  Everyone has those fears.  Even refugees have those fears.  They worry that they will not understand or be understood.  They worry about not knowing about the culture here in Sioux Falls and doing something incorrectly.  Underneath it all, we’re all the same.  Just don’t let those fears stop you.  Because you might end up missing out on meeting a best friend.

If you are interesting in overcoming your fear of volunteering, contact Kristyne Duffy at Kristyne.Duffy@LssSD.org or call 605-731-2009 to find out about volunteer opportunities.


Written by:  Kristyne Duffy, Volunteer Coordinator, Center for New Americans

5 Reasons You Should Become a Classroom Assistant

October 14, 2016

Today, we share 5 reasons why you should become a classroom volunteer and help the new students!

Reason 1 – Travel the world! (while staying in Sioux Falls) – In our classrooms, we have students from across the globe learning together. One moment you may be sitting next to a former doctor from Russia, the next reading with a farmer from Ethiopia. You’ll be able to see and learn about the culture of other countries without paying the cost of travelling or feeling the effects of jet lag – could it be easier?

Level 4 Students learning about US Universities

Level 4 Students learning about US Universities

Reason 2 – Make new friends – The students see our volunteers as both teachers and friends. While you’re here be prepared to hear choruses of “Teacher, Teacher! Guess what?” and “Teacher, my sister is coming to Sioux Falls; I bring her to meet you!” and even “Teacher, I made this cake for you.”

Reason 3 – Help fulfill dreams – Many of our students were unable to attend school in their homeland as a child due to war and violence. Now that they are here, they have the chance to. You can help by practicing flashcards and having conversations with them!

Reason 4 – Learn something new! – Not only can you learn about other cultures but you might learn more about America too. As one volunteer said, “I couldn’t believe what they have to know [for citizenship]! I couldn’t answer any of their questions!” Volunteering in a citizenship class is great way to brush up on your civics knowledge. Stun your friends with all the information you have!

Teaching gets physical when learning action words like "unconscious"

Teaching gets physical when learning action words like “unconscious”

Reason 5 – It’s fun and easy – You don’t have to be an expert to volunteer. We’re just looking for encouraging and welcoming individuals to help our students learn English. We laugh and joke while we teach in our classrooms. Just try not to smile while you’re here!

So if you’re looking to have fun, give back, and learn more about the world, become a classroom assistant! Sign up today to begin volunteering or call 605-731-2009 for more information!


Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator, Center for New Americans

Tuesdays with Frank

May 19, 2015

“It’s Tuesday. Oh, good. Frank’s coming today.” This reassuring thought occurs weekly about fifteen minutes before 10:00 every Tuesday morning. LSS Center for New Americans recently nominated Frank Boerema for the Helpline Center’s “Spirit of Volunteerism Award,” an award honoring outstanding volunteers in the Sioux Empire. Frank started volunteering in our English classes in June 2014 and has become a familiar and much-welcomed face around the place. I feel privileged to have Frank in my own classroom and appreciate his easy rapport and patient demeanor with our low level English speakers.

Kristyne (Volunteer Coordinator at LSS CNA), Frank, and me, Kadie, at the Helpline's luncheon

Kristyne (Volunteer Coordinator at LSS CNA), Frank, and me, Kadie, at the Helpline’s luncheon

I asked Frank a couple questions the other day about his experience volunteering at the Center for New Americans. His responses were just too good not to share with everyone.

Why did you choose to start volunteering at LSS Center for New Americans?
I didn’t really know anything about LSS Center for New Americans until I was invited to the Taste of Cultures event last year. There was a brochure at the table of different ways to volunteer at the Center and then to my surprise, I find out it is right across the street from where I live. I was invited to take a tour and immediately I knew I wanted to become involved.

What do you enjoy most? What have you learned through your time with our clients?
What a great joy it is to help in the classrooms and get to know the students, to be so warmly greeted by them and their big smiles every time I come. I have learned a great respect for the students, their determination to learn and their desire to live here in America. I have learned a great respect for the teachers, their efforts to bring understanding and all the time and skill they bring into the classroom.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering in our English classes?
When people ask me about volunteering at the Center, I tell them their life will change as well as their perspective of people from other cultures. The students probably teach us as much as we teach them. It is always hard to leave when my scheduled time is over. I tell them that this is a powerful experience and that they are needed by the teachers as well as the students.

Interested in learning how to get involved as a volunteer in our English classes like Frank? Email Kristyne Walth at kristyne.walth@lsssd.org or call 605-731-2009.

Students and Staff Serve Together

March 17, 2015

It is 5:30.  I was supposed to be there at 5:15.  I’m running late…I’m always running late.  I pull into the parking lot on East 8th Street thinking “Oh, no!  I forgot to remind the class last week about serving at the Banquet!”   But as I peek into the brightly-lit dining hall, quickly shucking my coat and filling out a name tag, there they are, all smiles and on time, unlike their citizenship instructor.

Blerim, Abrahim, Jose, Elizabeth, and Elida—all English and Citizenship students at the Center  for New Americans—along with staff from the Center for New Americans, served the evening meal at the Banquet on February 27th alongside Augustana College students enrolled in a capstone course about issues surrounding poverty taught by Professor Reynold Nesiba.   The meal had been prepared earlier that afternoon by several English students and LSS staff.  Partnering to serve with another group was a valuable experience for me and the students.  “I liked helping with other people…I liked serving with them.” Jose shared.


While serving in the food line, washing tables, and filling the endless requests for more coffee, water, and milk, clients, students and staff alike all learned more about people who are hungry in Sioux Falls.  I saw looks of surprise on my students’ faces as the line for a hot supper continued to remain constant an hour into our time there.

The Banquet staff encourages all volunteers to sit down and eat with guests during some point in the evening, providing an opportunity to experience some common ground and solidarity and give the large and complex issue of hunger a face and a personal story.  When the doors closed, we had served a total of 273 guests (22 of whom were children) and 18 gallons of milk.   After being one of the volunteers who was in charge of refilling the milk, coffee, and water pitchers, Jose shared “It’s a good place [The Banquet]…a good place for people to get food who don’t have it.”

Serving at the Banquet is always rewarding, but also challenging.  One leaves with a full belly and tired feet, but also a helping of sadness, desire for change, and a sense of urgency.

~Written by Kadie Becker, ESL Instructor at the Center for New Americans

Meet the Bloggers: Kadie

Better Together: New LSS Program will Match Volunteers with Older Adults

December 17, 2014

Volunteers are needed for a new program in the Sioux Empire that will connect older adults to their community and build social relationships.

Better Together, a new program of Lutheran Social Services was designed to improve quality of life activities for older adults. The program will begin in January 2015 and aims to have 20 pairs in its first year. 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.

Today, there are 26,000 people in the Sioux Empire who are age 65 or older. Of that group, 46% live alone. Nationally, researchers have found that feelings of loneliness can contribute to reduced physical health, cognitive decline and dementia and more.

“We have been able to see the difference that a volunteer can have on a child through our School-Based and USucceed Mentoring Services,” said Michelle Madsen, LSS Mentoring Services Director. “We’re looking forward to replicating those relationships with older adults in the community who need that extra support and friendship that a volunteer might be able to provide.”

Individuals, families, or small groups can volunteer for the Better Together program. At least one member of the group must be over the age of 18. Older adults interested in being matched with a volunteer must be 65 years old and live in their own home or apartment. There are no guidelines other than age for older adults to participate in the program. Volunteers must successfully complete a background screen and an orientation training before they are matched. More information about the Better Together program, please contact LSS at 605-221-2403 or email Mentoring@LssSD.org.


A Journey of 6,000 Miles, Then 2.2 More: Volunteer Prosper Zongo

April 2, 2013

Prosper Zongo

Prosper Zongo

When Prosper Zongo rides up on his bicycle to volunteer here at LSS, he’s traveled quite a journey . . . much longer than the 2.2 miles that Google Maps might suggest.

Prosper is about 6,000 miles from his original home in Cote D’Ivoire (The Ivory Coast). He came to study at Augustana College here in Sioux Falls through the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship.

“Augustana has been like a home for me,” he says. Read the rest of this entry »

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