Seniors Claire Van der Heide and Vivian Shinall lead a mission trip this past summer

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Photo Courtesy of Claire Shea

The mission trip group helped volunteer in an impoverished South Dakota community.

Over the summer, two seniors had the opportunity to participate in a mission trip with junior high students. Along with campus minister Becca Meagher, junior high principal Claire Shea, and female junior high students, seniors Vivian Shinall and Claire Van der Heide traveled to Sisseton, South Dakota to volunteer on a Native American reservation through the program, American Youthworks.

While on the mission trip, the ladies had a variety of tasks to complete. “Half of us went to paint a house for the elderly or other people people on the reservation who needed help. The other group, during that time, went to something called Kids Club where we organized activities like arts and crafts, singing songs, playing outside, and other activities,” Van der Heide said.

We really got to know all the people who we worked with, like the owners of the house painted. And then at the Kids Club, we got to know every kid that came everyday. I built a lot of relationships with the junior high girls as well, along with Ms. Meagher and Ms. Shea.”

— Claire Van der Heide

The reservation in Sisseton is unique from most reservations; the population consists of about 50% Tribal Native Americans and 50% Caucasians. However, much of the town suffers deep poverty. “A few years back, it was one of the most impoverished cities in the United States,” Shinall said.

The trip gave the girls the opportunity to bond with the people they interacted with. “We really got to know all the people who we worked with, like the owners of the house painted. And then at the Kids Club, we got to know every kid that came everyday. I built a lot of relationships with the junior high girls as well, along with Ms. Meagher and Ms. Shea,” Van der Heide said. 

Overall, the experience was not only impactful for the junior high girls, it also was rewarding for Shinall and Van Der Heide. “As a senior leader, I not only got to work with the local population that really benefited from my work, but also, I got to watch the girls on the mission trip as they experienced extreme poverty for the first time, and also as they got to know each other. So, being able to see that through their eyes was really rewarding for me,” Shinall said.