Sandrea Smith
Do photos tell the truth? Sandrea sparks a discussion among students at Highland Community School as they examine messages and stereotypes embedded in photos of Native Americans.
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During semester break, justice project never stopped

While Mount Mary classes were between sessions, one student took this opportunity to conduct talking circles with students at three MPS schools.

Sandrea Smith, Justice, ’17, took on the role of cultural ambassador, holding talking circles and introducing youth to other Native American traditions. They activities were designed around themes of identifying racism and breaking down stereotypes associated with Native Americans.

She met with students at Fernwood Montessori, Highland Community School and Bradley Tech.

During the session, students shared stories by passing around a feather, which focused the attention on the speaker. They also looked at photos of Native Americans and discussed whether the people were accurately depicted or perpetuated stereotypes.

Sandrea Smith

PHOTO ON RIGHT : In December, students from Mount Mary’s Leadership for Social Justice class met with the community group Arts @ Large to explain their concept for a joint art-and-culture project. Here, Sandrea Smith, Justice, ’17, left, listens as Daniela Torres, ’20, right, explains how the project will challenge stereotypes. They are accompanied by Jessica Greengrass, center, a MATC nursing student and member of the Ho-Chunk tribe.

“This activity is to open up a dialog about what is appropriate, real and racist and gauge what the kids already know and what they don't know,” Sandrea said.

Once they have a broader understanding of the Native American experience, these students will work with Native American artists from the community arts organization, Arts @ Large, to create art projects that will be displayed in April at the Arts @ Large Gallery on Milwaukee’s South Side.

This project, which ties art and culture together, was developed by Mount Mary students in a Leadership for Social Justice class held this fall. This course, a requirement for all Mount Mary students, provides students a chance to partner with community groups and create projects that support the mission of the group.

Although Sandrea was not a member of the Mount Mary class that developed the programming, she felt called to serve as cultural ambassador, because of her deep ties within Milwaukee’s Native American community. She considers herself one-quarter Native American, primarily Ojibwe. As a youth, she attended the Indian School of Milwaukee.

Opportunities to build understanding, such as this one, help connect Sandrea with her past, present and future.

“I’m solidifying my purpose here at Mount Mary,” she said.