In the News: 2019 Reclaiming Youth Seminars

Reclaiming Youth Seminar

Larry Brendtro, professor emeritus in special education; Martin Brokenleg, professor emeritus of Native American studies; and Steve Van Bockern, professor of education.

Article courtesy of the June/July 2019 edition of Sioux Falls Woman magazine.

Augustana University will be hosting the 2019 Reclaiming Youth Seminars on July 18-20 on their campus in Sioux Falls, with a Reclaiming Youth at Risk Certification Course commencing on July 16-17. The seminars have been in the Black Hills for the past 25 years but are relocating to Sioux Falls for the foreseeable future.

The seminars were born from the book Reclaiming Youth at Risk, written in 1990 by three Augustana University professors: Martin Brokenleg, professor emeritus of Native American studies; Larry Brendtro, professor emeritus in special education; and Steve Van Bockern, professor of education. The book has a second edition published in 2002, with a third edition coming this July.

Brokenleg, Brendtro and Van Bockern came together 30 years ago to compile their knowledge on Native American philosophies and share with others, so they could create environments that raise respectful, responsible children.

“They are looking for positive, strength-based ways of working with young people. So much of what we’re promoting is a relational way of serving young people rather than punitive punishment,” Van Bockern explained. “It’s a different way of being with kids.”

Brokenleg, Brendtro, and Van Bockern are hosts for the seminars this year, along with Mark Freado. The model the men describe in their book and will discuss at the seminars is the Circle of Courage medicine wheel. Four values make up this model: belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. They believe youth thrive when they have those in place.

“If kids are getting into trouble, one of those areas is broken,” Van Bockern shared.

Every year, the event attracts teachers, counselors, and others working with youth from around the world. This year they will hear keynote speakers and presenters covering the topics of trauma, resilience, and thriving; social and emotional learning in classrooms and schools; strength-based treatment with children and families; positive climates in residential care and juvenile justice; and Native American and First Nations youth and communities.

“These are people on the frontline building hope and resilience in young people,” Brendtro said.

Something that surprised Brendtro and Van Bockern is the international impact their book has had in the last 30 years. People from Australia to Germany to South Africa have found the information empowering and have requested training on the material from the authors.

Brendtro and Van Bockern are elated that Augustana University wants to host the seminar and hope Sioux Falls will be more accessible to attendees and continue to bring in a vast array of people from around the world.

“We provide a place where people can come and get inspired and share their ideas,” Brendtro said.

Learn more about the event at

Katie LeBrun
Public Relations and Communications Strategist