Mount Marty College Students Volunteer with Tree of Life Ministry at Rosebud Indian Reservation

April 27, 2017

Eighteen students from Mount Marty College (MMC) in Yankton, South Dakota, recently participated in the Lakota service project, an annual service opportunity that sends a mixture of nursing students and non-nursing majors to the Rosebud Indian Reservation to work with Tree of Life Ministry in Mission, South Dakota. The MMC students, including 13 nursing majors, two radiologic technology majors and three biology majors, served in various capacities during the four-day trip while learning about the Lakota culture.

Mount Marty College nursing students at Rosebud Indian Reservation

Above, MMC nursing majors Hortence Niyigena (front) and Larissa Trainer (back) help provide diabetic foot care for individuals from the Lakota community on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. 

“My experience at Rosebud was more than I could have asked for,” says Taylor Murtha, a junior biology major from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “I was able to interact with the Lakota people while working at the soup kitchen on Friday. That day I learned more about who the people are today, while the other days were more focused on their past.”

Accompanied by MMC Nursing faculty Chelsie Rodabaugh, FNP; Kelsey Lentz, BSN; and Diane Smith, Ph.D., RN, the students volunteered with Tree of Life Ministry doing activities such as organizing donated items, serving in the soup kitchen, helping in the thrift shop and assisting in some construction projects. In addition, nursing students provided diabetic foot care for the local population.

“I believe this service trip has a great impact on the students’ perspectives,” says Rodabaugh, who organized this year’s trip. A large part of that impact, she says, comes from the cultural awareness the students gained through planned activities, such as experiencing a sweat lodge, star study, lecture over cyber-crime at Sinte Gleska University and hearing a cultural life story from Chief Duane HollowHorn Bear. Providing health care to people in need left a lasting impression as well.

“The students that are involved in this service trip become more aware of the Native American culture and have an increased cultural awareness of this population’s needs, which will assist the students with health care encounters they will see in the future,” Rodabaugh says.

Mount Marty College nursing students at Rosebud Indian Reservation

Above, Mount Marty College students learn about the Lakota culture on a tour of the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Standing in front of Lakota community wall art, from left, are: Mitchel Steffen, Mayra Ramirez, Jessica Ericsson, Renner Mickelson, Nicholas Messmer, Taylor Murtha, Maura Lysne, Brooke Bennett, Larissa Trainer and Taryn Urbaniak.

For some of the students who participated, what they experienced at Rosebud is already influencing future plans. 

“I am now even more interested in the Lakota culture than I was before,” says Murtha, who plans to attend medical school after graduation. “The culture has intrigued me so much that I am now contemplating spending more time in my future profession on the reservation and trying to make a difference to the people. I have also thought about going back on my own to try to do some volunteering on a smaller scale.” 

For Rodabaugh, cultivating awareness and providing service are what it’s all about.

“I found it very rewarding to work with these students in this underserved population,” she says. “They all came together as a team to help as much as they could.

MMC offers numerous service opportunities throughout the year, including service trips, local outreach, an annual Mission Day and more. For more about service opportunities at Mount Marty, visit mtmc.edu/campus-life/campus-ministry/service-opportunities

To learn more about Tree of Life Ministry, visit treeofliferelief.org.