Despite some delays due to bad weather, two semi-trailers loaded with toys, clothing and furniture left Southeast Technical College early Tuesday to spread warmth and holiday cheer to residents of two Native American reservations.
The trucks were scheduled to leave Monday, but the college decided to wait a day for road crews to clean up after Sunday’s storm. One truck will head to the Crow Creek Indian reservation in South Dakota, while the other will travel to the Santee Sioux reservation in Nebraska.
Southeast Tech students volunteered to drive both trucks, both for the trip and to gain experience. Truck-driving student Kelly Ratz said the trip will expose them to tolls, scales and loading and unloading the trailer, all skills she will need in her career.
“It’s a good real-world experience,” she said.
Southeast Tech’s connection to Crow Creek is a decade old, a connection president Jim Johnson made at the annual Great Dakota Gathering. Students from the reservations receive the donations and have also during the years been awarded scholarships to attend Southeast Tech.
“It’s a connection with a thread of heritage we have,” Johnson said. “It is amazing how much pull the reservation has on the students.”
Truck driving instructor Tom Gierok has been making the trip for more than eight years.
“The need out there is incredible,” he said. “Any time I have the opportunity to make someone’s day better and help my students I’ll take it.”