On a cold winter evening after school, Abbi and Toni arrive “home” to the delightful smell of cookies and hot chocolate. This home isn’t far away from school; in fact, it’s less than 500 yards from the main school campus. It’s a frequent place for them to unwind and chill outside of school hours. The “mother” of this home also happens to be their horsemanship class teacher, Ms. Newhart, one of the faculty members at Holbrook Indian School (HIS). She is affectionately referred to as “faculty mom” by the two students.
While Abbie and Toni settle in, another member of the family, Dalariyn, is back on campus at the gym watching the home basketball game. She had already informed her faculty mom that she would be missing today’s get-together at the house, which is an almost daily custom for this particular family. Abbi, Toni, and Ms. Newhart grab the snacks from the kitchen and settle in on the living room couch as they look over matching Christmas-themed pajamas for their family holiday photo.
The family had all decorated the home Christmas tree just two weeks before. As they spend another evening together, the smiles and laughter reflect a sense of joy and belonging. These school-based households are known as faculty families, and, as the name suggests, these groups are extended families made up of students and staff.
The general atmosphere at Holbrook Indian School (HIS) is much like a family. The resources and programs that are invested in creating this environment only add to this. As a boarding school that serves Native American students who travel hundreds of miles away from home, supplementing the family atmosphere is important—especially for the students who are the caretakers of their Native families. One of the ways the staff at HIS accomplishes this is through the faculty family effort.
The normal monthly faculty family gatherings are essential to creating a family atmosphere for the well-being of our students. Faculty families like Ms. Newhart’s, which love to meet more frequently, demonstrate that this importance stems from a natural desire given to us by our Creator.
Imagine what it might feel like to be the caregiver of your siblings at the age of 12 or even younger. You would end up missing out on your childhood, which causes emotional damage as you grow older. For many children around the world, these scenarios are realities, and the same can be said for a number of our students.
But where darkness is at its deepest, light is able to shine all the more brightly. Holbrook Indian School provides students who are far away from home the experience of home life through the loving support of extended families at the school where they live, learn, and grow.
The words of Ms. Newhart are a brilliant summary of the impact for both student and teacher.
“My house is a place of safety and comfort. It is important for me that the girls can feel that by how my place looks. We have a pretty close relationship. I didn't expect to feel so close to them so soon in the school year. If any of them are having a really hard day and they need a place to take a break, they know that my house is their home.”
“I want to be as supportive of my faculty family girls as my parents were of me, but I also connect and empathize with their need for togetherness at home.
While faculty families do not replace students’ biological families, I want my home to be a place where any missing pieces can be found.”
By Chevon Petgrave