A new scholarship given to eight graduating members of Red Cloud Indian School will help them obtain skills they plan on bringing back to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Like Tatiana Stands who recognized the lack of fresh and healthy food on the reservation and will study culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in North Miami, Florida to prepare for opening a restaurant on the reservation that will serve global cuisine inspired by Lakota heritage.
Elyssa Sierra lost a friend to suicide and has made that her inspiration to study education at the University of New Mexico and become a teacher. Her goal is to provide support to students facing depression and other major challenges on the reservation.
The Completing the Circle Scholarship is aimed at supporting students who want to give back to their community and improve conditions for their Lakota people after college. Teachers and administrators feel it will allow Red Cloud graduates to play a major role in creating opportunity on Pine Ridge. The scholarship was created by a $100,000 gift from an anonymous donor.
“Although they’ve only just graduated from high school, the students receiving this scholarship have all experienced first-hand the impact of extreme poverty on Pine Ridge—whether through losing a friend to suicide, or a family member to the diabetes epidemic, or by witnessing the severe lack of access to basic resources like health care,” said Robin Johnson, Red Cloud High School’s principal, in a press release. “Despite the incredible challenges many of them have faced in their young lives, these students are all determined to give back and create change here on the reservation. And we could not be more proud.”
The scholarships range from $1,000 to $25,000 and provide continued support through mentors at Red Cloud during college while they obtain their degrees. This mentoring can be critical for students leaving the reservation for the first time.
“With limited exposure to the depth of career opportunities possible to them, and families who have typically never navigated the university experience before, our students—and many Native students—face unique hurdles as they leave the reservation to attend college,” said Nakina Mills, Red Cloud’s director of student advancement and alumni support and a graduate of the school who left the reservation to attend Creighton University.
“But we’ve seen our students thrive when they can still tap into the close-knit support they had here at Red Cloud—it gives them the perseverance they need to prepare for their futures, both on and off the reservation,” Mills explained in the release.
The students graduated in May and are now preparing to head off to their respective colleges.
“There is no doubt in my mind that these students will achieve their dreams—and remain committed to making their community a better place,” said Principal Robin Johnson. “The future of Pine Ridge will be brighter because of them.”