For the second time this academic year, a group of Christian Brothers Academy students visited the De La Salle Blackfeet School in Browning, Montana for a service immersion experience.
The De La Salle Blackfeet School is a Lasallian San Miguel School, which means it is a Catholic institution that serves predominantly at-risk populations, is not tuition driven, has extended school days, small class sizes, and extended support to students beyond graduation.
Browning is the capital of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, home to 12,000 Blackfeet. The current community contains chronic unemployment, welfare dependency, poor housing, domestic violence, and addiction. The parents of the Little Flower Parish on the reservation asked the Brothers of the Christian Schools to start a school, in hopes of developing their children’s talents while providing hope for the underprivileged community.
CBA students and faculty have been traveling out to Browning for the better part of a decade. This time, there were 13 sophomores and juniors who traveled, which is the largest group ever. The students were accompanied by faculty members Mr. Matthew Butler and Mr. Charles Rooney.
While on the reservation, the CBA group worked in the classroom with the students, took part in mass at the parish, and listened to guest speakers from the area.
The main work was in the school with the children, who were in grades four through seven. The CBA students helped with homework, read to the children, and played games and sports. Before they departed, each CBA student wrote a letter to the classes that they worked with, reflecting on their experiences over the week-long stay.
The Academy men listened to stories of hardship on the reservation, which the school tries hard to combat. Many of the children do not live with their parents, often in the care of an uncle or aunt. Many of the teenagers on the reservation have a tough time finishing high school, becoming involved in drugs and alcohol instead.
“The kids have next to nothing at home, and while you would think those hardships would show in school daily, but it doesn’t,” Anthony Coniglio ’19 said. “The kids come to school more energetic and excited than imaginable. The resiliency of these kids is incredible. Seeing those students excited to learn, it meant a lot to me and I know it meant a lot to the others as well.”
Of course, the CBA students had some time to themselves, where they were able to bond with a mind-clearing hike through Glacier National Park.
Even with all the great bonding time between the CBA contingent, the Academy men knew that it was most important that they left an impact on the school’s students, as well as a smile on their faces.
“We all had a lot of fun working with the students, and I know that they enjoyed their time with us too,” Coniglio said. “Our days at the school are all about making relationships with these kids, and I tried to form relationships with as many of them as I could. If I made even the slightest impact on one of the kids, I know that the whole trip was worth it. All the students said that they hoped to see us again, so I know many of us already want to see them again too.”