A truck filled with winter clothing and blankets collected by Prospect High School students is leaving Mount Prospect Wednesday headed for a Native American reservation in South Dakota.
Nearly 200 Prospect Knights' Way leaders held a winter clothing drive in November to support the Lakota Spirit Project, a charitable endeavor started two years ago by Prospect alum Daniel Wessell.
Students collected enough warm clothing, shoes, boots and blankets to fill more than 200 garbage bags and a 12-foot moving truck. Over their winter break, several teens helped sort, package, and label the items so they could be loaded onto skids for transporting. Wessell will drive the truck to the reservation.
A senior at Columbia College, Wessell was compelled to action after taking a human rights class that focused on social crises worldwide. Although his intent initially was to photograph human rights violations across the country, he decided more was needed after visiting the Oglala Sioux community on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation.
After contacting Prospect High School, Wessell met with Knights' Way leaders to discuss the poverty he witnessed on the reservation and how he was moved to action.
"The students decided to move forward with the Lakota Spirit Project after Daniel's presentation," said Jay Kyp-Johnson, Knights' Way sponsor and school psychologist.
"We spent time discussing poverty, lack of opportunity, and giving back, as it is one of the Knights' Way house rules. It is important that all students are given opportunities to be socially responsible. Also, since this project involved a former student, current students, staff and parents, it became a serious team effort by Prospect."
Wessell has made several trips to the reservation to donate aid, photo document the challenges of reservation living, and network with community leaders to create future programs that will help improve lives. Prospect's donations are the most collected at one time.
"I could not have been any more surprised by the outpouring of support from the Prospect High School community," said Wessell.
"Words cannot properly express how shocked I was by the amount of warm winter clothing and blankets collected. It really inspired me to see all the students, parents, and staff members who got involved in this effort to selflessly make a difference in the lives of complete strangers. I've never been so speechless."
Although this is Prospect's first year participating in the project, it won't be their last.
"We will work with Dan again in the future as long as the rationale for doing so remains the same, and our students want to commit to what he is doing for Native Americans on the reservation," said Kyp-Johnson.
The Oglala Sioux is one of seven tribes that make up Sioux Nation. The goal of the Lakota Spirit Project is to enhance the Oglala Sioux's overall standard of living on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation and bring economic growth to the Oglala Sioux community as a whole.