One student called it a lifesaver, another looks at it as a way to get an education in the hopes of someday helping the children in his tribe.
That is how two of the nine students from Red Cloud High School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota who recently won the 2011 Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholarship feel about being chosen.
“Receiving the Gates is a big accomplishment for me—it has saved my life,” said DeAndra McLaughlin, who will attend Stanford University this fall. “I feel as if I have nothing to worry about. I am very thankful for this scholarship—a scholarship that gets me closer to my career dreams.”
“It’s amazing! I still can’t believe it,” said Sonyah Clifford, who will head off to the University of Arizona-Tucson this fall. “This scholarship means that I can do anything, that I can be anything. This is my opportunity to learn, grow and come back to help the children of my tribe.”
According to a news release announcing the winners, Red Cloud has the most Millennium Scholarship recipients per capita in the country. Last year the school had six students win the scholarship and the year before, seven. This year’s nine winners is a new record for Red Cloud.
“This scholarship exemplifies and celebrates our students’ accomplishments these past four years,” said Robert Brave Heart Sr., superintendent of schools. “It’s been wonderful to have witnessed how seriously they’ve taken their education. This scholarship is testament to their commitment to higher learning. I know I speak for everyone at Red Cloud, and across the Lakota nation, when I say we are truly proud of them.”
According to the website, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program picks 1,000 students a year to receive a scholarship that’s good through graduation at any univesity or college of their choice. That’s why one of the Red Cloud winners was so happy to be chosen.
“I was in shock when my mom first told me that I got the Gates,” said David Means. “With this scholarship I can now further my education without putting the burden of tuition costs on my family.”
Red cloud takes the application process very seriously, students interested in applying participate in an essay writing class, and are mentored by college students and professors through a program with Creighton University. Possible applicants are also encouraged to attend summer classes that teach them about the scholarship and college application process.
“This year’s senior class is a really hardworking and focused class,” said Michael Sunderland, research and technical writing teacher at Red Cloud High School. “The Gates application process requires a lot of hard work, time and dedication. These students worked hard for it. Its very joyful that so many of the students received it, and a great honor to them all as it simply commemorates all of their hard work.”
The Gates Scholarship has been around since 1999, since then 54 Red Cloud students have received it.
This year’s Gates Millenium Scholars and the schools they plan on attending include:
- Gina Arellano, South Dakota State University, nursing
- Tynan Clarke, Carthage College, chemistry
- Sonyah Clifford, University of Arizona-Tucson, speech pathology
- Raven Gray, Oklahoma University, biochemistry (pre-med)
- Kayla Iron Cloud, University of Denver, nursing
- DeAndra McLaughlin, Stanford University, political science (pre-law)
- Dave Means, University of Arizona-Tucson, undecided
- Kiley Weston, Bismarck State, physical education (pre-med)
- Billie White, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, undecided