Two Flandreau women have been chosen to join the second Bush Foundation-sponsored South Dakota Change Network cohort, a group of 20 people across the state who will work on community projects.
Emily Firman Pieper, who is a professor of theater and speech at Dakota State University and is the owner of Studio 52 in Flandreau, along with Elisabetta James, who is the Title VI/Native American Education Coordinator for the Flandreau School District, will both receive $5,000 grants to do projects in the community.
Pieper’s project idea is to expand her community education offerings by adding classes in art, yoga and meditation for all ages. James’ idea is to work on increasing a sense of community and membership across cultures in the school system and create opportunities for people to interact.
The Flandreau women will meet with the other 18 people selected to the group beginning Sept. 19 for networking and to start working to develop their projects beyond an idea. They were chosen through an interview process.
James said her project idea aligns well with the job she does at school with direct support to students, families and teachers.
“I also see myself as a lifelong learner and hope that the Change Network Program will empower me to grow and better myself as not only an individual but also as a community member and professional,” she said. “I am deeply passionate about empowerment that is community-based, especially with my experience as an immigrant in the United States.”
Pieper has been involved in many community projects and also is the outreach coordinator with Interlakes Area United Way. She also has continued Studio 52 without a physical location.
The two have until late next fall to get their plans approved and will be learning skills as they work through the process, said Kari O’Neill, the South Dakota State University Extension representative for the program.
Last year was the first year for the Change Network in South Dakota, and 14 people were chosen to participate. This year’s number has grown to 20. It notable that two people from a small town were chosen, O’Neill said. “I think it’s really neat that there’s two people from a small town.”