The Spirit of Thanksgiving - Alum Gives Back, and HFCA Students Pay it Forward

  • HFCA Alum, Jack Rosenwinkel working at the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Staff

    HFCA Alum, Jack Rosenwinkel working at the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Staff

Updated 11/30/2021 9:32 AM

The celebration of Thanksgiving at many schools focuses on a meal shared by Native Americans and Pilgrims hundreds of years ago. Few students in Northwest suburban Chicago are aware of 21st-century life on American Indian Reservations. Sixth grade students at Holy Family Catholic Academy met with one of the Inverness school's alums, Jack Rosenwinkel, who provided a first-hand account of the culture, joys and challenges of living on a reservation in southwestern South Dakota.

Jack graduated from HFCA in 2013, Fremd High School in 2017, and the College of the Holy Cross in 2021. HFCA caught up with him in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, where he is working at the Red Cloud Indian School, a kindergarten through grade 12 school steeped in Lakota, Catholic, and Jesuit traditions.


Jack is discerning entering the Jesuit novitiate and works as Campus Minister for the elementary and middle schools, teaches 5th grade religion, 11th grade English, oh, and also drives a school bus. While his many varied duties fill his days, he graciously scheduled a meeting with Anne Pacion's 6th grade English and Language Arts class.

Pacion explained that a recent novel had sparked questions about Islam, so she expanded the unit to include the study of Religions Around the World. With Jack's help, the class was able to include Native American beliefs and rituals in their study which compared and contrasted Christianity with Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

The class was totally engaged listening to an alum who not that long ago had sat in the same classroom. Sixth grader Madeline Pinchot explained, "We all could identify with Jack. He went to HFCA and now has gone on to do something really cool - teaching kids our age, but who don't have the things we have."

Jack likewise enjoyed the meeting, "It was great to talk to the HFCA 6th graders- they were respectful, inquisitive, open, and insightful."

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Pacion explains that broadening learning outside of the classroom is a hallmark of HFCA. "As an International Baccalaureate World School, HFCA students' knowledge is enhanced by asking questions, making connections, and pursuing authentic issues throughout the world. We started with a novel, which developed into a study of world religions. The next thing I know the students were organizing an effort to raise money for Red Cloud."

Madeline shared the student-led idea, "Of course, we wanted to thank Jack, but we also wanted to give back and help the students at his school." In addition to thank you cards, the students raised money to make a donation to Red Cloud. Jack was touched by their efforts, "I was totally taken aback by the students' generosity, and I plan to use the money to put on a Christmas pageant with my fifth grade students."

HFCA is a young school by almost every measure with less than 100 alumni who have completed high school, college, and begun careers. Principal Kate O'Brien reflects on the students connecting with Jack, "HFCA's motto is to develop global thinkers, leaders grounded in faith. It is remarkable to witness this motto alive in our alumni and our current middle school students. We have many things for which we are grateful, especially a legacy of using talents to give back to others."

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