The Meaning of Success by Cindy Morales

June 10, 2022
Cindy is an AmeriCorps Leader serving at Poplar High School

Every community is different. Oftentimes people are measured by a standard level used for all, that completely disregards the outliers and minoritized individuals. These standards are based on communities or groups of people who do not encompass everyone. Serving on the Fort Peck Reservation with high school students has made it more apparent that these standards are hurtful. We must celebrate every improvement and every success. Just like communities are different, so are individuals. The difference lies not only in the present, it lies in the journey and hardships leading up to the present. Differences change the meaning of success.

The students at Poplar High School have solidified in me some basic understandings of individual development. These understandings are as follows. Not all youth are subjected to or introduced to the experiences or knowledge that will benefit them in their adulthood. Not all youth have access to people with knowledge of how to navigate the system. Not all youth get the opportunity to learn what has the potential to improve their lives. Not all youth know how to even access that information. Not all youth know of the existence of many resources. Even then there are barriers present for some that do not exist for others in their pursuit of success and happiness.

Cindy with juniors and seniors visiting MSU Havre with Cal from FPCC’s Chante Project.

Measuring success is often done by setting a goal in order to measure the effectiveness. This community has taught me that goals must be different too. The steps towards the achievement of these goals must be different. The time frame needed for each step will also be different. Overall time, steps, and techniques must be approached differently. This is why standardized measurements and curriculum in education fail to assist communities with vast differences.

There is great knowledge, resilience, and love in Poplar. Even though the standards have been applied to these students, most still show up. In their culture community and family is important. School is a place where they can come and spend time around each other. They care for each other and their community.

Students of Poplar High School during town clean up day

In their way of life celebration and ceremony are the most crowd attracting functions. Even as the school year came to an end and student attendance levels dropped, graduation for seniors and the last day of school were heavily attended. The energy of happiness and excitement was present. The school year had not only brought the experience of Covid-closures and mandates, but losses and sorrow, and yet the celebratory energy was at an all time high.