Dapra ’24 has Memorable Experience on Montana Service Trip
October 10, 2023
Senior Matthew Dapra reflected in his own words about his week spent in Browning, Montana at the De La Salle Blackfeet School. This is one of multiple service immersion trips that CBA students take throughout each school year.
In the spring of my junior year, I signed up to join several of my peers in a Service Immersion trip to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana for the upcoming September of my senior year. A description of what we would be doing was given, and many more details were shared as the date of the departure grew closer. However, there was nothing the organizers of the trip could’ve said to prepare me for how the week of working with young students and absorbing the scenes of Montana would ultimately impact me.
Every day, we woke up early at our bunkhouse and then took a 20-minute bus ride through the beautiful rural plains of Montana to the nearest town: Browning. There, we energetically engaged with early arriving students ahead of the lengthy 7:30-4:30 school day. Throughout the majority of each day, I collaborated with students in an effort to establish bonds, assist with their academic progression, and set an example. Given that I was assigned to the oldest class, the eighth graders, I found that I was really able to connect with them and leave a lasting impact in the classroom.
My memorable interactions with the students went beyond just the classroom. Despite our differences in location and culture, we shared a common interest: basketball. During the two 15-minute breaks students enjoyed every day, we often played intense matches of the sport, sharing laughs and further building lasting connections. Another way I grew closer with the students was getting to know each other’s cultures and origins better. Throughout the week, students were very curious about our suburban New Jersey lifestyles. Conversely, we learned a great deal about Montana life and Blackfeet culture through talking to students, as well as various presentations from Christian Brothers living in Montana and leaders in the Blackfeet community. This cultural exchange played a key role in broadening our perspective and bridging the gap between us and the students.
On the group’s own time, we were able to explore the unfamiliar terrain of Montana. An unforgettable aspect of the trip was exploring the breathtaking landscape of Glacier National Park. Amidst this venture and memorable nighttime trips down the road to look for cell service, a sense of brotherhood shined brightly. My connections with the students I already knew were strengthened and I forged new friendships with those I wasn’t familiar with. The experience of this trip was made possible in large part by those around me.
Throughout my time at Christian Brothers Academy, I have involved myself in a number of unique service opportunities. The most rewarding of these experiences are those in which I could work directly with those who I am serving, as this allows me to behold exactly how I get to positively impact their day. While working closely with the eighth grade students at De La Salle Blackfeet School in Browning, Montana, I was able to do precisely that, which I feel made the experience all the more meaningful. This was undeniably a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I’m profoundly grateful for having the privilege of being a part of it.