Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Buffalo Ridge Resort held a Town Hall meeting on Monday, Oct. 8, for the purpose of revealing its plans for a new training academy located on their main campus in Gary. The ballroom at the resort held more than 200 community members including representatives from the Gary City Council, Deuel County Board of Commissioners, plus officials from the State of South Dakota including: South Dakota's Adjutant General, Major General Timothy Reisch, Senator Jason Frerichs, Representative Steve Street, and Representative Spencer Hawley.
Brad and Jackie Stevens, managing partners at Buffalo Ridge Resort, unveiled the plans to a packed house about the new training academy that will serve veterans in transition from active duty as well as foster children who are aging out of the foster care system. "Nothing will change within the current operation of the resort" stated Brad, "we will carry on as a hotel, full service restaurant, and continue to hold meetings, weddings, corporate events, and holiday parties." What does change is the addition of dormitories in the administration building that will house students for the new academy.
The academy is a pilot program designed to serve foster children ages 18-24 and veterans ages 20-25. "We have been blessed to receive our first two years of funding for this program from a private non-profit foundation" says Jackie, who will serve as the Program Director for the academy. Students will attend this academy at no cost and will receive certifications initially in the area of Hospitality or in Wind Energy Maintenance. "My first teaching job was in alternative education so I have a strong desire to see this program succeed while providing a guided future for veterans in a time of need," said Wilmot farmer and State Senate Democratic Leader Jason Frerichs. Training programs run in length from four months to one year. Additional areas of study being reviewed include Welding and Metal Fabrication coursework as well as Truck Driver certification. "The design of our academy is small enough that we can be reactive to the immediate labor needs of our State, ensuring that we have the ability to place our students in positions that can provide them with careers earning a living wage" according to Jackie. "On-the-job skills training from a program of this type along with structure in a homey environment fulfills a void in our region and will prepare these young people for good paying jobs," said Senator Frerichs.
Other speakers included Mike Bruich, family friend of Buffalo Ridge Resort developer Joe Kolbach, and Zeno Wicks, retired SDSU professor. Mike has worked in the non-profit sector since 1975 and is currently the CEO of a large non-profit organization on the west coast working with victims of child abuse. In his organization, he and his staff see first-hand what happens when kids who do not have support systems age out of the traditional foster care system with no family to rely on for support. He also discussed the immediate needs of our veterans and emancipated foster youth and how an academy of this nature can significantly change the outcomes of these individuals' lives. Zeno presented the South Dakota First Initiative and the tie-in of this program with the academy. South Dakota First is a development program for young people that provides training and experiences to embrace a proactive future that serves our rural communities as well as all of South Dakota. South Dakota First is dedicated to celebrating young people who intend to live and work in South Dakota by providing them with additional tools to help them live full, well-rounded productive lives.
The Town Hall meeting ended with an extensive question and answer session which demonstrated community support and excitement for this initiative and opportunity to help those in need.
Buffalo Ridge Resort is located in Gary, S.D. on the MN/SD border and is approximately 45 minutes east of Watertown, S.D. and 45 minutes west of Marshall, Minn. The resort offers a 19-room boutique hotel, Rock Room Bar & Grill, Talking Waters Campground, meeting and event space for up to 300 people, plus hunting packages. For more information on the training academy and/or resort, visit www.buffaloridgeresort.com.
For more information, you may contact Jackie at jackies@buffalo
ridgeresort.com, or Brad at