“Volunteering helps our students as far as character and being committed—and they can add it to their resume,” Jennifer Martel says, smiling. As the Sitting Bull College (SBC) visitor center coordinator, Martel frequently facilitates volunteering opportunities in the community for students, especially with elders. Martel, herself a graduate of SBC, has volunteered in community groups like the Suicide Taskforce and Honoring Lakota/Dakota Code Talkers. She knows the value of volunteering, not only for those served but for those taking part.
SBC students have in the past year volunteered in a variety of capacities, including helping out at elders’ bingo nights, distributing turkeys for Thanksgiving, assisting with the December feed for elders, and bringing those living in elderly housing a rose and a bag of candy for Valentine’s Day. Heather Whiteface, a student at SBC, came up with the idea for Valentine’s Day. College staff and students donated candy and set up a distribution center in the elderly housing neighborhood, a protected area where elders are eligible to live. The SBC bookstore donated a rose for each elder, some of whom have lost their significant other and may not otherwise have a Valentine. Martel introduced the students at each house and was thrilled to see the smiles on the faces of both elders and volunteers.
Students and staff at SBC also helped to organize the Fulfilling the Prophecy/ Gathering of Grandfathers meeting which drew over 200 people, including many notable elders like Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe. The event raised awareness of issues such as water rights and Indigenous knowledge. The meeting was a huge success with Oceti Sakowin peoples coming from across the United States and Canada. Whether it’s hosting gatherings, helping with bingo, or delivering turkeys and roses, Sitting Bull College is proud to have committed student and staff volunteers who serve the local community.