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The Newsletter of Black Hills Special Services Cooperative
December 2021


BHSSC received a Live Well Black Hills Community Mini-Grant to provide outdoor opportunities for children and adults with disabilities in the Sturgis area. The funding was used to create raised garden beds for adults with disabilities at BHSSC group homes and purchase outdoor games for children with disabilities at the Sturgis Main Office School. About 20 students enjoyed outdoor games including basketball, Jumbo Connect 4, and Giant Jenga.

Residential Coordinator, Kelly Olson, says the raised garden beds were a hit! The BHSSC maintenance crew constructed five raised garden beds and then group home residents took ownership of planting, tending, and harvesting their gardens. They planted pumpkins, bok choy, kohlrabi, tomatoes, hot peppers, green peppers, squash, eggplant, and even flowers! 

Residents were usually so excited to harvest that they picked and ate right away, any time they noticed things were ready--even the hot jalapenos! They enjoyed trying new flavors, messing with dirt, getting wet from the hose, and just being in the sunshine while gardening. Residents and staff are looking forward to continuing this project next year!

Recent Highlights

Check out a few of the many projects happening in our Five Divisions of Service:

Community, Family, & Special Services

The Native Voice Project was designed to increase the South Dakota Statewide Family Engagement Center's effectiveness in providing services to schools and families located on or near tribal lands. The guiding principle of the project is to ask the question: "What's possible and how do we create it?" 

Invitations to join the project were sent to schools serving predominantly Native populations and of the schools that responded to the invitation, the team began by interviewing administrators to learn more about the strengths of their school community and what support they would like around family engagement at their school.

All school administrators expressed a strong desire to increase family engagement at their schools. The team then invited families of each participating school to take part in "Family Chats" via Zoom. The goal of the chats was to hear directly from families with administrators present in a listening role only. 

Native Voice Project Lead, Dr. Peg Diekoff, has been an educator for more than 35 years and says this is "one of the most meaningful pieces of work that I've been involved in because we're giving families a voice." She says she likes to remind families that they have unique expertise and are the "PhD of their own children." Diekoff says it's important for families to give themselves credit for the amazing things they are doing with their children. 

Follow-up surveys after the Family Chats showed positive results with most respondents indicating they would be more likely to reach out to their child's school if they had questions in the future. This year the project has evolved to include additional schools and a "Student Voice Chat," designed for administrators to hear directly from former high school students. Diekoff says the school administrators have been committed to the process and she hopes the Family Chats are the beginning of a new tradition in participating schools.

Developmental Disabilities Division

The 2021 Direct Support Professional of the Year is Wendy Enninga. She was nominated by her fellow DSP's who commented on her great ability to make connections with the people she supports, her skill at providing choice and working at a pace tailored to each individual, and her kindness and respectfulness to people supported and coworkers. 

Developmental Disabilities Division Director, Shirley Halverson, says, "We are lucky to have such an amazing DSP working at BHSSC!" 
Enninga has been a DSP for 14 years and says that her favorite part of the job is being able to help people and keep them safe. She also enjoys how no two days are alike. "There are so many different personalities, and I like learning about them and finding new experiences for them. I think it's really neat how you can work with someone for years and they can still surprise you and have a skill you didn't know they had. It's fun to find out what things people can do. I just want to learn as much as I can about the people I support."
For Enninga, BHSSC stands out among other organizations she has worked for because of the in-depth training she received and the stability of having so many longtime staff members. "They have lots of experience and really know the people here. The training that I got was amazing and the working environment is very respectful."

Education & Workforce Development

Project SEARCH is a unique, business-led, transition-to-work program, providing young adults with disabilities in their last year of high school a one-year employment preparation program that takes place entirely on site at the workplace. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training through worksite rotations. 

The Project SEARCH program in the Black Hills is in its fifth year of operation. There are 13 participants this year, making it the biggest class thus far in the program. Students have participated in a variety of rotations in Rapid City and Sturgis, including internships at Monument Health and in a variety of other fields such as distribution, vending, and home medical equipment

Project SEARCH Program Coordinator, Heather Hoeye, says it's an exciting time for Project SEARCH since staffing shortages have created new hiring opportunities. Hoeye says, "Employers are realizing what amazing employees Project SEARCH interns make and are really seeing their potential. It has opened up so many doors for hiring a person of differing abilities and given us a time to shine."

This program would not be possible without the host site, Monument Health. This partnership has been instrumental in changing the lives of Project SEARCH participants. Many of the interns have been hired by Monument Health upon completion of their program--in fact Hoeye says one intern was already hired this fall!

To learn more about Project SEARCH of the Black Hills, view this video.

Health & Human Services

Mark your calendars with the upcoming 2022 training opportunities brought to you by the Transition Services Liaison Project! Flyers with specific information for each event will be emailed in a timely manner prior to event. For more information, call your Regional Liaison!
Let's Talk Work: A one-day employment conference designed specifically for high school students with disabilities
  • 1/12   Mitchell, Highland Conference Center 
  • 1/19   Aberdeen, Boys & Girls Club 
  • 2/10   Sioux Falls, Sanford Center 
  • 2/24   Fort Pierre, AmericInn Conference Center 
  • 2/16   Rapid City, Rushmore Hotel 
Catch the Wave: A one-day conference designed for high school students with disabilities considering post-secondary education
  • 3/16   Mission, Location TBA
  • 3/29   Rapid City, School of Mines & Technology/Western Dakota College  
  • 3/29   Sioux Falls, South East Technical College
  • 4/07   Aberdeen, Northern State University
  • TBA   Mitchell, Mitchell Technical Institute
23rd Annual Youth Leadership Forum (YLF): A one-week training for high school students with disabilities focusing on leadership and self-advocacy skills
  • June 5 - 9, 2022 at Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD
Annual Summer Institute Training: A two-day training focusing on transition topics for educators, parents, VR counselors, and adult agencies
  • Summer 2022 - Location and dates to be determined

TIE Technology & Innovation in Education

TIE Learning Specialist, Dan Henry, has spent hundreds of hours over the past five years collecting and analyzing data for South Dakota schools and sharing that information with teachers and administrators at Data Retreats. He says the goal is to help educators become "data literate" and understand how this sort of information is a useful part of the puzzle in ongoing school improvement efforts. 

"Can you imagine going to a doctor who is continually providing treatments, but not evaluating the performance of those treatments to determine if they're effective? To become an expert teacher, you need to look at the efficacy of what you're doing." 

Henry often begins his presentations by sharing that he was a teacher for 15 years and, since he grew up near the ocean, he likes to compare teaching to surfing. He says although "some days it feels like an accomplishment just getting up on the board," you need to keep adjusting what you're doing according to the ocean's conditions, if you want to really be good at surfing--or teaching. 

Data Retreats provide an opportunity for teachers to learn how to interpret student test information and then gauge their own effectiveness. Henry leads teachers through the process of looking at the data through a wide lens of student proficiency rates and then drilling down to more focused data points on specific subjects and curriculum standard targets.

Henry says his favorite part of the process is hearing reflection from teachers about what they have learned and what their action plans will be going forward. "I want teachers to be the foremost experts on their teaching practice."

Copyright © 2021 Black Hills Special Services Cooperative, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
2885 Dickson Drive
P.O. Box 218
Sturgis, SD 57785

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Black Hills Special Services Cooperative · PO Box 281 · Sturgis, SD 57785-0281 · USA

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