The Pierce College Pre-Veterinary Club chose 300 children from the Spirit Lake Tribe of North Dakota and Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux tribe of South Dakota to donate to as part of this year’s Walking Shield program.
Walking Shield donates to Native Americans who live without adequate food, water, or electricity, according to Pre-Veterinary Club officer Linnea Norton.
“A lot of times they’re living in little shacks,” she said. “We’re a first world country, but we have little pockets of third world countries on our Native American reservations.”
Since 1987, Pierce College has been adopting an average of around 250-300 children per year. It’s donated a backpack full of supplies to each child, but with one caveat – the student must stay in school the entire year to receive the donation.
“We try to provide incentive for them to get an education,” Department Chair of Agriculture and Natural Science Leland Shapiro said. “If they get an education they can come back and be the role models for future generations.”
Students and faculty can participate by “adopting” a child and filling a backpack for them with basic essentials like toiletries, toys, blankets, shoes, and clothing. Individual item and monetary donations are also accepted.
“The time of year coming up, it gets below zero degrees, so we have to get them really warm clothing,” Pre-Veterinary Club Vice President and Walking Shield Program Coordinator Ashley Gomes said. “Basically anything essential that you would need, we give to these children every year.”
Walking Shield was founded in 1986 by Phil Stevens, who is of Sioux heritage. The program takes its name from Stevens’ Lakota name. Stevens used money he earned as an engineer to help impoverished Native Americans.
Shapiro said he contacted Stevens after visiting Pine Ridge Reservation and witnessing first-hand the hardships people faced there. “I’m a teacher,” Shapiro said. “I want to encourage education.”
The Pre-Veterinary Club was created from the Dairy Club by Shapiro after noticing that many of his students went on to veterinary school. Both clubs emphasized charity work while also providing tools and guidance for agricultural majors.
“You cannot be a good veterinarian without three passions – you have to love animals, you have to love science, and the third one, most people don’t realize, you have to love people,” Shapiro said. “You have to be a compassionate human being for other human beings. A true animal lover is a true person lover.”
Donations of toiletries, toys, blankets, shoes, clothing, and similar items can be dropped off through Nov. 4 at the RVT Clinic, which is adjacent to the Center for Sciences building, and in the first floor of the library.
On Veteran’s Day weekend in November, the backpacks will be packed and sent to Walking Shield headquarters in Orange County before they are delivered to the reservations.
“I think the best charity you can give somebody is education,” Shapiro said. “Make them smart enough that they can earn enough money, that they can give to somebody else.”