Holly Schmitt, who has family at the Lower Sioux community, said, '“I have always had an interest in the Dakota culture,” adding her original plan in college was to study the Dakota language and to earn a minor in American Indian studies.

Growing up in Shakopee, Holly Schmitt learned a lot about the Native American culture as it existed in her own backyard.

That exposure increased her interest in the American Indian culture, which led to her decision to earn a degree in Native American studies at the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota. Her interest and education, combined with other personal experiences, are helping Schmitt in her new role as part of the Indian Education program in the Redwood Area School District.

Schmitt, who also has Dakota lineage, started working in the local school district in early January and has been helping students in the middle school and high school performing a variety of tasks for and with them.

She said that work includes assisting students with school work, as well as meeting their emotional needs.

“I focus on what the kids need most,” said Schmitt, adding that might just mean talking time to let them talk.

Schmitt actually started her college education pursuing a degree in sociology law and earned a degree in that, along with the American Indian studies, in December 2014.

Schmitt also has family at the Lower Sioux community, as her mother is an enrolled member. So during her growing up years she did become familiar with the area.

“I have always had an interest in the Dakota culture,” said Schmitt, adding her original plan in college was to study the Dakota language and to earn a minor in American Indian studies.

Yet, as she kept taking classes she found herself closer and closer to earning a major.

So, she kept going.

Since graduating in 2014, Schmitt has worked in various capacities from mental health to domestic abuse, and in addition to working in the local Indian education program is serving through Greater Minnesota Family Services in New Ulm. Those experiences, she said, have helped prepare her for her role in education, as she is able to help students who come to her with various concerns.

No, admitted Schmitt, she did not imagine she would ever work in an education setting, but she did say in her past she had some experience working as a tutor. Having heard about the open position, Schmitt decided to apply, as much of her past work did center around helping students in need.

Schmitt said things have been going very well in her new position, and she is glad to be working with the rest of the Indian education staff.

“I have learned so much from them already,” she said.

Schmitt said she believes having an Indian education program in the school district is a great asset for the students and the school as a whole.

She is looking forward to creating more connections with the students, staff and the community she now calls her home.