Sherman Indian High School is a boarding school for Native American youth located in Riverside, just 40 minutes away from Giving Children Hope’s office in Buena Park. This school year it houses students from 65 tribes across 23 states, ranging from Arizona to Alaska. The school is similar to any other serving at-risk populations – guiding eager learners through the difficult but potentially equally rewarding high school years.
About a year ago, Giving Children Hope learned that there was a serious food deficiency at Sherman. The Sherman staff reached out to us hoping we could share food donations with their students. When Christine Sanchez, Director of Domestic Programs, first visited the school for a tour and to assess the need, a student walked out of class and straight up to her to ask for food. “When a student politely asks for food, you give it to them. You do whatever you need to do to make sure their basic needs are met,” said Christine.
About half of the students arrived for school this year with not much more than the clothes on their back.
They are sent to this school for an opportunity at an education that may not be possible on their reservations. Like so many high school student in this country, the effort they put into their education lays the foundation for the rest of their lives. The success of their high school years is proportional to the support system that surrounds them. When Giving Children Hope learned that Sherman needed food to support student learning, we made a commitment to figure out just how we were going to do it.
On August 19th, in collaboration with nonprofit partners, Giving Children Hope planned a Giving Day. We gathered new backpacks, personal hygiene, Ugg shoes, and assorted Disney items. We also made sure each of the 4 dorms had a crock pot, a rice cooker, snack items, and plenty of bulk rice and beans. The staff at Sherman were grateful that the youth would know there was always food available when they were hungry.
During the giving, we talked to Mark McFal, who has served as a faculty member at Sherman for fifteen years. He shared with us about a student he picked up from the airport. He explained he started his usual spiel with the student, informing her that it might be difficult to be away from her family. But he was interrupted by the young girl saying, “It doesn’t matter what Sherman is like, it’s going to be better than home.” This broke Mark’s heart. He said, “That’s why every staff member here is like an adoptive parent to these kids. We love and take care of them.”
Many of the students we met that day had just made their journeys across the United States. Nana, a 12th grade student, told us, “I like it a lot more at Sherman than at home. I have five brothers and three sisters. I’m forgotten a lot. It’s complicated and stressful.”
In the giving, we saw gratitude – face after beautiful face filled with the surprise that comes from an unexpected and generous gift. We did what we love to do – GIVE. The students left us with handwritten words of thanks:
“Thanks Bed Bath & Beyond for the stuff. It helped out a lot.” – Deion Black Bull
“Thank you to all who provided our products. And especially Disney.” – Kimberly
“Thank you for the stuff that I got. I needed it.” – Nathaniel L.
“To all who has made this a dream come true, thank you!” – Tristen W.
“Ahe hee, it means ‘Thank you’ in Navajo. I really appreciate all of this.” – Leoniah
Since the distribution, Christine has met with Sherman’s principal, Sr. Mary Yarger, to define the needs moving forward. Sr. Mary explained that since the impact of the Giving Day, the students have been giving back to their community. They assist the neighboring St. Thomas Church with preparing 100 homeless lunches on a weekly basis, they have assisted in the renovation of their own dorm rooms, and they’re currently busy evaluating how to help another neighboring church, St. Michael’s, with their needs. “It’s our responsibility as Native people to give to someone else now,” said Sr. Mary. “It’s the right thing to do.”