Northwest Hope Award: Windswept Academy

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, July 25th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Each year, WORLD sponsors the Hope Awards for Effective Compassion. It’s an annual competition to showcase organizations that minister to the poor and needy.

This is Year 13 for the Hope Awards.

And today on The World and Everything in It, we begin a series profiling our 2018 Regional winners.

We start in the Northwest region.

EICHER: A brief refresher on our Hope Awards criteria: To qualify, an organization must have a solid track record in three key areas.

First: the help they offer must be challenging. Meaning, it expects something from those receiving help.

Second: it must be personal. Or, you might say, the opposite of a bureaucratic approach.

And third: the help must be spiritual. In other words, organizations must go beyond meeting temporal needs, important as they are.

WORLD has vetted and sent a reporter to visit each of the groups we’ll call attention to over the next week.

All are regional winners. Which one receives the grand prize is up to you.

Voting is now underway at

BASHAM: First up, our Northwest Hope Award winner.

It aims to meet needs that are widespread on many of our country’s Native American reservations: problems of poverty and substance abuse. This K-to-12 Christian school on the Cheyenne River Reservation is working to provide a quality education — as well as support and hope for a better future.

WORLD Radio reporter Sarah Schweinsberg on Windswept Academy in Eagle Butte, South Dakota.

AUDIO: Sound of lunchroom chatter

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: It’s 7:30 in the morning, and the students of Windswept Academy sit behind brown lunch tables eating biscuits and gravy with sausage.

Teachers sit at the head of each lunch table admonishing children to do more eating and less talking. My microphone doesn’t help.

STUDENT: What’s that?

SCHWEINSBERG: This is a microphone. I’m doing a story on your school!

STUDENT: Really? Can I say something? Hellllooo [Giggles]

After breakfast, Headmaster Clint Holley flashes the lunch room lights off and back on. The room goes quiet and students jump to attention, hands over hearts.

AUDIO: I pledge allegiance to the flag

And pray.

AUDIO: Headmaster Holley praying 

School founders Ilhami and Ann Konur opened Windswept Academy in 2009 with just 12 students. Today, 92 children are lining up and marching off to class.

Amy Holley is a teacher and Headmaster Clint Holley’s wife. She says the Konurs saw a need in the community.

AMY: They just felt like there was a need for education and religious education. They wanted to give something to the community that way.

The Konurs also wanted local families to have Christian community and support during tough times. At some point over the past decade, every Windswept teacher has had parent’s ask them to take temporary or long-term custody of a student.

One of those students is Precious. She’s 12 and has been attending Windswept since kindergarten.

PRECIOUS: My favorite thing to study right now is science, but we’re studying health. So right now it’s history.

When Precious started coming to Windswept, her mom met Amy Holley. Precious’s mom fell on hard times and eventually asked the Holleys if they’d care for her daughter.

PRECIOUS: And I lived with them ever since.

Today, the Holleys care for Precious and three other students. But Clint Holley says Windswept teachers always work toward reunifying parents and children.

CLINT HOLLEY: We’re working with a father of some of the kids we’re raising right now who wants to get his kids back. We helped explain, well, you can take these classes, you could get your GED, get a job, you know, here’s some things. We’re helping them do all those things so he can prove to the court, right, that he could, he is on his own feet and he’s able to take care of his kids.

The school wants any child to be able to attend, so it keeps tuition at $50 dollars a month. If a family has more than two children, tuition is capped at $100 dollars. Donations cover the rest.

CLINT HOLLEY: If you were to ask someone to pay the amount of money necessary to run a Christian school, it would be cost prohibitive for most of them. And it also would create a class society where the Christians are only ministering to the people who have money.

Teachers work Bible stories, prayer, and personal devotion time into each school day. In the morning, teacher Charles Shupick leads his kindergartners through their memorized Bible verses.

AUDIO: Sound of students reciting Scripture

This school year, 14 students professed faith in Christ. Jasper, a junior, says he came to faith through the influence of teachers.

JASPER: They take each individual kid, and they spend time with them. They say they love you all the time. You don’t really get that anywhere else.

Classes are limited to 12 students so teachers can spend more time with each one in the classroom, on field trips around the state, or just down the street.

AUDIO: Sound of bus

Today, the third grade boards a short yellow school bus. Teacher Darla Shupick is taking them across town for a treat.

SCHWEINSBERG: Ok, where are we going?

CHILD: Dairy Queen!

Shupick tries to corral the students.

SHUPICK:  We are going to walk, not run.

Inside, a local pastor greets the rambunctious children. While they eat oreo and cotton candy blizzards, he tells stories.

AUDIO: Pastor telling story of Moses

Darla Shupick is the only Native American teacher at the school. She says the school has earned the larger community’s trust by respecting Native American culture. Children learn their tribe’s history and basic Lakota words.

TEACHER: How do we say good morning? Student: Hinhanni Waste

The school also earns trust by caring well for children.  

MRS. SHUPICK:  I think what the kids get the most out of by being here is the love and attention. It isn’t about me being Native or not for them. I think it would be sweet if we could have other people from our reservation come in and teach and be a part of this, but we’ll have to see what happens.

Darla Shupick hopes the longer the school exists… the more locals will see it making a difference in the lives of students like Zianne. The sophomore says the school helped her leave an abusive home.

ZIANNE: I actually told one of the teachers what was going on. It was actually Mrs. Holley, and so then she took me to DSS – Department of Social Services. I’m with a woman named Amanda, and she’s a really good foster mom.

Precious, the 12-year-old who lives with the Holleys, says teachers and friends helped her overcome depression. Today she’s dreaming of the future.

PRECIOUS: I want to be a missionary. But then when I was a kid, I’ve always had my eyes set on being a teacher since this year, and now I want to either own a pawn shop or I just want to work with antiques. I guess now I want to do hair.

Next year, the school will celebrate its first graduating class. Headmaster Clint Holley says he hopes the school will give wings to its students’ dreams. All of them.

HOLLEY: I would love to see people be able to raise a family, stay here and be successful, make a difference, and transform our nation into a godly nation. The LAKOTA nation. 

For WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg reporting from Eagle Butte, South Dakota.

(Photo/Alex Garcia, Genesis) Students say a morning prayer at Windswept Academy.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “Northwest Hope Award: Windswept Academy

  1. Graham Gutting says:

    I spent a week with Anne and Ilhami Kanur and saw first hand their love for the Lacoda Sioux and the children on the reservation. Their work there is a light and hope for a people who are among the most in need.

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