Two Lakota high school students have returned home to the Pine Ridge Reservation after acting as ambassadors for Badlands National Park during a trip to New York City.
Dwan Wilcox and Earl Lamont are part of the Badlands Youth summer intern program.
Badlands National Park spokesperson Julie Johndreau says their trip to The Big Apple was sponsored by the Calhoun School. Students from the Manhattan school have visited the park for week-long exploration camps twice since 2012.
Johndreau notes that as much as discovering what life is like in South Dakota was an eye-opener for the Calhoun School students, their trip to New York City was all that and more for the Lakota students.
“We were there for 9 days and the students stayed with a family from the Calhoun School,” Johndreau explains. “And I think that was a wonderful experience for them. There was a 9th grade student in the home…so they were able to be fully integrated as far as going out in the evening to Times Square, or getting pizza and going to a souvenir shop.”
But the trip wasn’t all entertainment. The Lakota students also gave a presentation to second-grade students about life in South Dakota and Badlands National Park, as well as answering questions about their culture.
Earl Lamont says he enjoyed visiting the Empire State Building and the 9/11 Memorial as well as just hanging out with some of the Calhoun students. Then there was that ride on the New York City subway.
“It was a cool experience because I figured out that the subway transportation is a lot easier than taking a cab,” says Earl.
Although she shared the same experiences, Dwan Wilcox says she’ll remember her visit to Coney Island the fast-paced lifestyle and…
‘New York City probably has the best pizza,” laughs Dwan.
Badlands National Park staff can only work with a few kids in their intern and ambassador program, but Julie Johndreau says the one-on-one attention that permits is helping to put those students on the right path to becoming tomorrow’s leaders.