Every spring, Mercy College students have the opportunity to travel to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota as part of a Service Learning Immersion Experience. This year, Dr. Judy Monroe and Dr. Joelle Stolte accompanied nursing students on this public health trip.

Five participants stayed for six days at the Pine Ridge Retreat Center located within the Pine Ridge district on the reservation. Students had the opportunity to learn about the Lakota culture, provide service to the community, play with native children, explore initiatives that are working to improve economic conditions, and help improve housing conditions.

pine ridge

Pine Ridge is the eighth largest reservation in the U.S and is the most impoverished. The unemployment rate on the reservation hovers between 85-90%. The population struggles with healthcare issues that include high mortality rates, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, increased suicide, malnutrition, and diabetes among other conditions. Many families have no running water, electricity, and sewage and waste management systems. Healthcare, emergency services, and resources are very limited within the district.

However, the Native American population has something that cannot be deterred: a strong commitment to God. They have a spirituality that runs deep and unites all people, animals, and the environment. The native people see these entities as allies.


The Lakota people welcomed Mercy College participants on this trip with open arms. They shared unbelievable stories of historical struggles, present day results, hope, faith, and spirituality that left a lasting impact on all Mercy College participants.

To learn more about Mercy College Service Learning and Immersion Trips, click here.

About Mercy College of Health Sciences
Mercy College of Health Sciences is the only private Catholic college in central Iowa and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Located in downtown Des Moines, Mercy College prepares graduates for service and leadership in the healthcare community with a wide range of bachelor, associate, and certificate programs. Mercy College’s liberal arts and sciences education develops compassionate caregivers and leaders. Visit www.mchs.edu or call (515) 643-3180 to learn more.