The day at St. Labre Indian School begins at 5:20 a.m. as Benito Brown turns his bus onto the “Busby Route,” a 105 mile round-trip. Students begin to board the bus around 6:00 a.m. to begin their daily trip to school. This one bus ride can last as long as two hours as the students travel our longest bus route along Highway 212. The six daily bus routes that service our campus consume a staggering 1,000 gallons of fuel per week, more in the winter months when temperatures are often below zero.
As the sun rises, students begin to arrive on campus, eager for their first hot meal of the day. The daily planning and serving of 950 meals at St. Labre, 250 at St. Charles, and 340 at Pretty Eagle fall directly upon the shoulders of Michelle Three Fingers, St. Labre Food Service Supervisor. Michelle also faces the challenge of ensuring that the school meal program meets federal guidelines with stringent limits on calories, sodium content and cholesterol counts. A daily task that is rewarded as smiling faces sit down to eat.
The cafeteria is not finished when breakfast ends. After the morning rush, staff will begin preparing lunch. As noon rolls around a buzz fills the air once more and rumbling stomachs return, ready for a delicious meal. The lunch room staff is at full capacity with twenty-six employees, today they are four short, adding additional strain to a busy meal service. Hard work pays off as the last students come through the lunch line. With bellies and minds full the second half of the day commences.
Today, preschool through high school education is available for Northern Cheyenne and Crow children. Combined enrollment at all three St. Labre campuses is nearly 750 children and continues to grow. Some of the classes our students attend include: industrial arts, business, home economics, music and art, as well as a full complement of sports and athletics. A great importance is placed on Native American culture and tradition. Instruction in Native American language and culture is a vital part of the St. Labre curriculum. We also offer courses in Native American literature, history, and tribal government.
As the day comes to a close and students begin their journey home, a handful have a short trip as they return to the newly constructed dormitory. “This facility is more than a dormitory,” Molly Korpela, the dormitory supervisor explains, The goal is that the kids enjoy experiences that are an extension of their school day, especially where the academics parts. Providing them with an incredible computer network used for research and projects along with the structured mandatory study halls every night help strengthen what they learn in school. The dormitory is available to students that live more than 40 miles from campus and currently is at full capacity. Students not living in the dorms begin to board the buses for their trip home. A ride that can last as late as 8:00 p.m. before drivers like Benito Brown are able to park the bus for the night. It’s an end to a long and satisfying day that has impacted the lives of students and faculty.