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A sneak peek of new facility

Rural America Initiatives holds a feed

He sapa Head Start sing Jingle Bells in Lakota.

He sapa Head Start sing Jingle Bells in Lakota.

RAPID CITY – Staff of Rural America Initiatives treated community members to a luncheon and sneak peek of their new $7.3 million dollar facility at 2112 South Valley Drive.

Last Thursday RAI invited members of the Rapid City Common Council, Scull Construction and other community leaders who contributed to the new facility to a traditional meal of beef stew, fry bread and wojapi served by the Ateyapi Youth Leadership Council.

During the luncheon invited guests were also treated to a little Christmas cheer. The 3-5 year old He Sapa classroom of Head Start students performed their rendition of Jingle Bells in the Lakota language accompanied by their teachers Shawn Little Thunder, Richard Brown and Ayanna Lessert.

Executive Director Bruce Long Fox said he pitched the idea for a much needed facility to house RAI’s Head Start programs and RAI offices to Jim Scull of J. Scull Construction and the pair brainstormed on how to get the job done.

“I want to give a huge shout out to our city. I don’t think the city has done anything like this for the Native American community. This really touches my heart what has taken place here,” Scull said.

The city through the Vision Fund contributed $2 million dollars toward the $7.3 million needed to complete the project.

Also contributing were the Weinberg Foundation ($500.000), JT Vacurevich Foundation ($1,000,000) and Hani Shafei who donated $160,000 worth of land where the new facility is located. Long Fox said the road encircling the building will be called “Hani Shafei Lane.”

RAI had raised $1,688.031 prior to launching the Capital Campaign and still needs to raise another $300,000 but Long Fox said they are well on their way to meeting their goal with matching funds still coming in.

During the luncheon Long Fox introduced RAI’s Ateyapi Program Coordinator Whitney Rencountre and new Development Director Amy Sazue.

Rencountre worked as an Ateyapi mentor for a year and a half before becoming the coordinator in 2009.

“We feel the energy in this building and want to thank the people across the city and across the nation who made this building possible,” Rencountre said.

Sazue shared a brief history of RAI and its accomplishments.

“We estimate that we save our families $1200 per month in child care and transportation costs or $14,400 per child each year,” Sazue shared.

The most impressive statistic she shared was that 90 percent of Ateyapi students graduate from high school.

After the luncheon the Youth Leadership Council provide guided tours through the beautiful new RAI Head Start Classrooms and RAI offices.

“Life is good and all is well. Our new classroom and office building is 70 percent complete with an estimated move in date of January 6, 2019,” Long Fox said.

(Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at staffwriter@

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