MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Mamaroneck resident Louis Panijel, 17, participated in a community service program in summer of 2014 on the Montana Blackfeet Indian Reservation with the organization VISIONS Service Adventures, an international community service based adventure travel program.
Panijel, a student at the French American School of New York in Mamaroneck, was part of a group of high school students from around the world who lived on a 1,100-acre ranch on the reservation along the Rocky Mountain front for one month, allowing them to meet and spend quality time with tribal historians, spiritual leaders, storytellers, ranchers and naturalists.
The teen volunteers partnered with the Blackfoot Land Trust and Nature Conservancy and replaced a 2,000-square-foot roof on a community building at the Yellowbird Woman Memorial Ranch. They also constructed a wheelchair ramp for an elder, assisted with the annual Sundance ceremony and helped prepare the Okon Medicine Lodge.
Panijel and his peers also had the opportunity to explore Montana’s wilderness and Glacier National Park on backpacking expeditions. The students also learned about Blackfeet history firsthand from tribal elders, historians and other community leaders, and had the chance to witness a traditional Sun Dance ceremony.
“Service in the cross-cultural context allows teens the opportunity to make a difference and, just as important, know the people whose lives they are impacting in personal, mutually respectful ways,” said Katherine Dayton, VISIONS executive director. “We give students tangible ways to be challenged through ambitious service work, thereby developing resilience and self-confidence, and realizing their potential in this world.”
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