Annika Coberly (‘23) and Emily Healy (‘22) are University of Notre Dame graduates who are serving in the Maȟpíya Lúta Volunteer Program. Through this program, recent college graduates teach and live in community at Maȟpíya Lúta School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, or Our Lady of Lourdes in Porcupine, South Dakota.
Maȟpíya Lúta School, formerly known as Red Cloud, and Notre Dame have created a strong connection, with five Notre Dame graduates participating in the Maȟpíya Lúta Volunteer Program since 2018. Moreover, the principal of Red Cloud Middle School, Thetna Weston, is a graduate of the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program. The principal of Our Lady of Lourdes, Tamera Miyasato is a 2008 Notre Dame graduate., Maȟpíya Lúta is also a member school in the American Indian Catholic Schools Network.
Healy is in her second year teaching middle school language arts at Maȟpíya Lúta. Coberly, who also teaches middle school language arts, is in her first year in the volunteer program and teaches at Our Lady of Lourdes.
Originally from Wyoming, Coberly was familiar with the region and says she was motivated to serve others and immerse herself in a new culture. Healy teaches middle school English at the Maȟpíya Lúta High School. Also from Wyoming, Healy researched Native history, culture, and justice issues throughout high school and college. As she explained, “Being on the Pine Ridge Reservation is the actualization of all of the research and work that was more theoretical.”
Both volunteers have fully embraced the Maȟpíya Lúta community and have taken on additional responsibilities outside of the classroom, including transportation. The school is located in a rural area, and many students take the bus to school. Coberly and Healy took a training course and have helped out by driving bus routes before and after school.
Teaching, although challenging, has been immensely rewarding for both Notre Dame alumni.
“Even when I hit the end of the day and I’m drained, I see that my energy and my efforts bring joy to the students,” Coberly says. “The amount of growth I’ve seen in my fellow volunteers and in myself in these first few weeks of being here is pretty remarkable.”
“They’re in middle school, so the students don’t want to act like they like you, but when I get these vulnerable moments with them, or these tender moments, it makes every single hard day worth it,” Healy says.
Coberly and Healy have enjoyed living in community with other volunteers, with shared meals and game nights. This community has served as a source of friendship and comfort throughout the school year. “The community and the conversations we share, even if they’re just happening over doing the dishes, has been the most valuable thing about living in community,” Healy says.
Asked whether they would encourage other Notre Dame graduates to participate in the Maȟpíya Lúta Volunteer Program, both responded with an enthusiastic yes. Healy says, “If you’re coming here to have your worldview challenged, and you’re coming to learn, and you're coming to serve and work with a population that deserves so much and is so beautiful, you know you’re coming here for the right reasons.” Similarly, Coberly says, “It’s a really great place to grow as an individual and a great place to grow in understanding of how to be in a relationship with others.”
If you are personally interested or know a college student who may be interested in participating in this volunteer opportunity, please view this digital brochure. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.