BOX ELDER — Some partnerships turn up when you least expect them and that’s exactly what happened with Stone Child College in Box Elder and Adrian Garcia, a commissioner for Harris County, Texas, one of the most populous counties in the country.
Stone Child College officials took a trip to Houston this year and were introduced to Garcia and have been working together since then on learning from one another, and had Garcia visit the college and Montana for the first time.
He says he’s learned a lot from the college and has a background in law enforcement and education that he wants to keep sharing with others and to have people learn from their respective cultures and communities as well.
“The offer was made to come learn and see the Stone Child College area and the reservation, and so I jumped at the opportunity. I’m always one from learning from all people and one to build relationships wherever I can,” Garcia said. “Just because we’re Harris County, largest county in Texas, doesn’t mean we know everything. It’s all about finding best practices wherever you can find them and so that’s what I’m here to do.”
The college says the partnership has turned into more of a friendship and that working with Garcia and his people is both seamless and beneficial as they continue to work together to overcome similar challenges, they both face.
Stone Child College Board of Directors Chairman Calvin Jilot says the friendship will help both parties grow and that they have learned a lot from each other and their commonalities, both good and bad.
“Our struggles are very similar, whether it’s racism or homelessness or lack of funding, we share a lot of common struggles, but we also have a lot of common strengths, and getting both of us together from our small reservation versus from where he’s at in Houston, we’re going to gain a lot of knowledge and partnerships,” Jilot said. “This is going to be a long-term relationship that’s going to continue and we’re only going to get better because of it.”
One focus they both have is pushing to maintain cultural awareness and language programs in the college, which is a big part of the Chippewa Cree heritage and culture, and the school says it’s important to push for it given how the last year has affected the community.
Stone Child College President Cory Sangrey-Billy says a lot of tribal elders and leaders have passed away recently, and keeping the language and culture alive is crucial to them.
“For us Chippewa Cree people here, it is important to us to know our language, where we came from. A lot of us were fortunate to have grandparents and fathers and mothers that were speaking fluent. Unfortunately, through time, a lot of that has been lost, and one of the things our college is working on is to promote our own culture and our language and that’s one thing we need to continue to grow and build, especially for those that don’t have that opportunity at home,” Sangrey-Billy said.
Stone Child officials will continue to travel to the Lone Star state in the future and look to build off this relationship and develop as many as possible with anyone they can learn from. You can visit the Stone Child College website for more information.