Families packed into the one room school house on the evening of Wednesday, March 15th for the quarterly family night at Takoda Prep. The night has always served several purposes: for staff and families to get to know one another, to discuss student progress, and to eat dinner together. However, with the planning and coordination of the newest staff member, Jessica Rousseau, ALC Plus Care Coordinator, family nights have become a fun night of games, delicious home cooked food, and deeper connections between staff and families.
The highlight of the evening was when families played a game that the students helped invent called Better Know What I Know, a spinoff of the classic Newlywed Game. In the planning stages of the event, students helped to decide what game should be played. They thought it would be fun to test their parents’, guardians’, siblings’, and cousins’ knowledge of little facts about the students. Some examples of questions included, “what year was I born?” “what’s my favorite topping on pizza?” and “what’s one word you would use to describe me?” Of course, the answers caused uproarious laughter from the whole crowd. This game served as an excellent opportunity for families to spend time together, get to know one another, and feel truly comfortable in this space. Some students even used the microphone that was set up – which is saying a lot for our particularly shy students!
Staff members Chris Hubbard, Christy Hicks, Tom Lonetti, and Toby Schroeder also had great opportunities to get to know family members one-on-one. Many great conversations were had about students’ academic progress, personal growth, and challenges faced. Staff always struggles to connect with families as often as they would like as a result of families’ busy schedules and limited staff resources. But the conversations during family night were meaningful and insightful. One new student, who just moved from Canada, brought his family. His step father told staff that the student was very nervous about starting a new school two-thirds of the way through the year. He was nervous about getting lost and fitting in, especially in a completely new space. However, the student’s mom found Takoda Prep, and so far everything has gone very well.
Another new student, Clayton Feriancek, told staff a story about his experience so far at Takoda Prep: “I was sick a couple of days and it was the first time I have ever woken up that I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to go to school that day. And when I came in the next day I was really excited that I could get all the work so I could stay caught up.” This statement is a wonderful testament to the environment at Takoda Prep. The school prides itself on being a highly welcoming environment for youth who have previously struggled at traditional high schools. Students at Takoda Prep truly feel like they belong in this community. They are excited to be here and thrive amongst staff and peers who treat them like equals.
The food and prizes of the evening were also a hit! Families munched on fried chicken, delicious salads, and cheesecake bites. There were also great prizes that promoted family time such as banana splits and a movie and a cake decorating kit.
Earlier the same day, the students spent a time volunteering at Feed My Starving Children in Eagan. They packed meals to be sent to Nicaragua for children who face hunger and poverty. Working hard and helping one another to pack as many meals as possible, the group ended up packing over 16,000 meals! It was a great experience in teamwork and also exposed students to global issues. Having the opportunity to help people in another community while having fun and working hard was a fantastic experience for the high school.
The next day, students and staff took another field trip. This one was to St. Thomas University in St. Paul. The group was able to walk around the campus a bit and view what it would be like to attend school as a college student. The main purpose of the field trip was to attend a screening of the nationally acclaimed documentary, The Seventh Fire. This film follows the life of Rob Brown and Kevin Fineday, residents of Pine Point, Minnesota on the White Earth Indian Reservation. The two men struggle with addiction, gang life, incarceration, and staying connected with their culture. It is a film entrenched with sorrow and challenging topics, but ultimately carries many important lessons. Though there is no true conclusion shown in the film, the students had valuable conversations on the bus ride home about the themes of the film and what may have come of the individuals shown.
All in all, it was a busy week of growing as individuals, getting to know one another, laughing together.
View the trailer and reviews of the film here: http://www.theseventhfire.com/