The ideals of serving the poor and brotherhood are staples of the Lasallian tradition. With this always in mind, a group of CBA students and teachers returned to the De La Salle Blackfeet School near Browning, Montana.
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.
Led by faculty members Ms. Morgan Biloholowski, Mr. Michael Mazzaccaro and Mr. Charles Rooney, six Academy men traveled to Montana to spend a week at the fourth through eighth grade school, working with the students and reflecting on their lives back in Lincroft.
The CBA students were hands-on in the classroom with the children each day, being assigned to various grade levels to serve as mentors and tutors. The children at the school experience an extended school day from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., since their living conditions are often below average.
Outside of the school day, the CBA group was able to attend mass at Little Flower Parish, while also listening to respected members of the Blackfeet community on life in that area. CBA students lodged in the bunkhouse of the local Holy Family Mission, where they were tasked with cooking for each other every morning and night.
The group was also able to take a hike through Glacier National Park to reflect and refresh themselves before heading back to New Jersey.
Firsthand Reflections on the Trip
“When working with the kids in the school, you find that they are just like kids across the country. They are obsessed with video games, love playing basketball, and most of all, they want to be your friend. When I first walked into the classroom, I was instantly greeted with 15 smiling faces wanting to get to know me, and within five minutes of me being there, I was already bonding with my students.” – Kyle Casazza ’20
“Between talking with the students, listening to various speakers, and going on guided tours, I was able to walk out with a deep understanding of the lives that the Blackfeet children are living in, making the trip much more emotional. Never before have I felt like I truly knew those whom I have helped before, but being on this trip, it was not only as if I was their friends, but as if I was a part of their family.” – Oliver Pangilinan ’20
“It was truly an eye-opening experience. Being able to build strong relationships with these kids in a matter of days, it blew my mind. I did not know what to expect when signing up for the trip. I had such a great time, not only with the other students and chaperones on the trip, but also with all the kids in the De La Salle Blackfeet School, whether it was laughing in the classroom or playing basketball in the gym.” – Carmine Emilio ’20
“Drug problems and bad influences plague this community of children. It amazed me how happy most of the kids seemed, even in the tough environment that they live in. The adults we met on the reservation were all so kind, but also opened our eyes to the problems inherited by those who live there. Overall, it was a great experience and I am very happy that I attended.” – Aidan Neville ’22
“Browning, Montana and the Blackfeet Reservation felt like a study in dichotomy. There was a beautiful backdrop: the Rocky Mountains and Glacier National Park in all their glory. However, there was the grim reality of Browning, as well. Walking around that town and working in the school, it was impossible to ignore the poverty, neglect, and abuse that was so overt. I’ve referenced the beauty of the land, but there was also beauty in the faculty, staff, and students that we worked with through the week. Despite all the hardship, there were so many moments of caring, kindness, and love. I saw firsthand the teachers working with their students until almost 5:00 every day. I saw our CBA students getting up when it was still dark to get to the school. I saw the Blackfeet students trying to learn and focusing on listening to their teachers and our students. While the place may have looked dreary, there was so much love and beauty to be found there if you took a second look.” – Ms. Biloholowski