Each spring, the gym is packed with proud family members, friends and underclassmen. Local news media regularly feature one or two students who have overcome the odds – the tragic losses of loved ones, drug addictions, teen pregnancies, chronic illnesses, school absences due to employment to support themselves or their families, or any combination of these and other challenges. Some students simply didn’t fit in at their traditional high school, whether in Sioux Falls, private schools or surrounding communities. Others needed the opportunity to learn at their own pace. Still others just required a family of students and adults willing to spend a little extra time helping them succeed. Each graduation ceremony at Joe Foss Alternative High School is an inspiring event, and one many people in the District look forward to each year.
On May 9, a ceremony at Joe Foss celebrated the Sheds of Hope project, which students, teachers and community members have contributed to this spring. Two teams of students (boys against girls) constructed two sheds, sold raffle tickets to determine who would win them, and donated the proceeds to two local charities: The Children’s Miracle Network and The Children’s Inn. (Click here to see how much was donated to CMN; Click here to see how much was donated to The Children’s Inn.) The students did more than build sheds, however. While staying after school to work, students collaborated with community partners (Modern Woodmen donated money and materials while teachers and community members donated their time, talents and tools to help), they learned new skills, and most importantly, experienced the satisfaction of fulfilling community service. For some students, it was the first time they had participated in an extracurricular activity of any kind, the first time many had used a tape measure or nail gun, and the first time they had donated time and effort for a local charity.
Throughout the year, our students regularly contribute and donate to the community and the world. Students have donated to orphanages in the Congo and the Ronald McDonald House; they volunteer in retirement communities and collect gifts for less fortunate children at Christmas. When a family experiences a tragedy, like a home lost to fire, the school rallies money and supplies.
Despite an unfair and inaccurate stigma that is often associated with Joe Foss, the students there are no different. With the Sheds of Hope project, the fantastic dramatic and musical performances they regularly produce, and the fact that they are achieving their goals despite the odds stacked against them, they are every bit as amazing as their counterparts in any other building. We would encourage anyone to visit Joe Foss to see for themselves the atmosphere, the options for students, and the amazingly devoted staff who help deliver them. See why for many students, our filled-to-capacity Joe Foss School is where they WANT to be.
Oh, and at next week’s ceremony, Joe Foss will once again honor a record number of graduates.