ALUM | Genriel Ribitsch, 2014

Genriel Ribitsch '14

Like many Red Cloud graduates - Genriel Ribitsch fought to find her place when she left home to start her college journey. But she soon became a leader on her college campus, serving as president of the Native American student group, and working with other young advocates to fight racism and discrimination on campus. Now, with one undergraduate degree completed and another nearly finished, she is applying to graduate school to follow her passion for science, and her dream of serving her community as a doctor. Here, she shares thoughts on her journey so far, and her hopes for the future.

How were your years at Red Cloud?

I have some great memories at Red Cloud, and had wonderful teachers - like Miss Red Dawn and Miss Katie Montez. These two teachers really helped realize the passion that I have for business and science. Little did I know that they would both help me choose what I wanted to do in the future. I had these two passions and didn’t know if I should take the path of business or the path of science. I later discovered that I could combine both passions and that is what I hope to do in the future.

How did Red Cloud prepare you for college and beyond?

One thing that Red cloud taught me is to be organized, to ask questions and be open with teachers. I feel like some of the teachers stressed the idea of time management and they need to stress this concept even more, because spreading yourself thin is very easy to do in college when there are so many activities, clubs, sports, gyms and many more.

How did you choose your college?

One of the reasons that I chose to go to the University of Colorado Boulder is because I wanted to go to a school where it was far enough away for me to grow, but not too far, so I could still come home if I wanted or felt homesick. When I arrived, I did not know what I wanted my major to be, and I wanted to take so many classes that were unrelated to each other. I was lucky and got put in a program that helps you choose. I ended up taking a variety of courses and really liking the science, sociology and ethnic studies courses. In the following semester, I found myself gravitating towards science and ethnic studies, and I finally decided to major in integrated physiology and ethnic studies. 


What ultimately helped me decide was thinking about what would help me achieve my overall goal - to be a doctor. Integrative Physiology was the major that was going to help me because it covered every part of science and I could go toward a variety of paths with this degree. The ethnic studies degree was a bonus, because I already had so many credits and I felt like it gave me a break from science. I also decided to add on a minor in business, because I wanted to have some experience in running a business. Someday I’d like to start a practice of my own and I wanted to be prepared for this for when it does happen.


How was the transition to college life?

My transition into college was a mix of good and bad, and it’s just something that you have to experience. I was very good at getting my school work done and was doing very well in a majority of classes, but not doing as well in the socializing part of college. I later found a Native American student group on campus and went to a couple of meetings my freshman year, but I was so focused on my classes and worried about failing that I felt like I didn’t have time or energy to waste. My second year I thought I would try again, because I was living alone and felt like I need to be around more people and just get out there and experience the life that is college. So, that next year I actually stuck with the group and built a community around me that I needed. 


Although like everyone else, I did experience some bad moments of college. After finding my community and becoming a comfortable social butterfly, I found myself being too social and going out more with my friends. I thought that I could handle it, like any other 20 year old, but in the end I noticed myself procrastinating more and a drop in my grades. I did not find balance easily, because I was also working and managing my student organization. So I decided that I would only go out with my friends once a week and only if I had my work done. I got a planer, color coded everything and stuck to it best I could, to not have my life in a complete mess.


What were you involved in during college?

After finding my community at the Native American Student Group, OYATE, I felt that things got easier. I felt like I had the support I needed to keep myself sane and my academic life was starting to balance. OYATE introduced me to so many people and many other student groups, that I’m so glad I got to experience. I got to see another side of the campus that I have never seen before. I met many people from Black Student Alliance (BSA), Asian Student Alliance (ASA), United Mexican American Students (UMAS) and many more student organizations. I’m so glad I stuck with my student organization, because it opened so many doors for me to meet new people and realize my surroundings of the bigotry and racism there is on campus. This made me realize that I wanted to be a part of the change that happened on this campus for future Native American students and other students of color. 


After my sophomore year I became one of the tri-executives of my student organization and took on the responsibilities of helping more Native students and people from other organizations get involved with events that could help make the campus better. It wasn't just us but other organizations as well, and we would all help each other when needed, to help people see the problem that we had on campus. 


I later became the President of OYATE for the next two years and held events for Native students, for students who needed a community, and for people who need to place to go and blow off steam, like I once did. I worked really closely with the UMAS and BSA student groups,  because we had the most experience these negative events, and we tried to stick together but welcomed anyone who wanted to help.


What have you been doing since graduation?

I recently graduated from CU Boulder but will be graduating in December with my second Bachelor's degree. I now have a Bachelors in Ethnic Studies and a minor in Business, and soon I will have my Bachelor’s in Integrative Physiology. I am also in the middle of trying to apply for graduate school this fall in either education or science, perhaps in educational policy or in Neurology and Psychology. In the meantime, I’m also just trying to relax a bit and work here on the reservation before going to graduate school. I’m currently working at Property and Supply for the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

What advice would you give to current Red Cloud students?

One thing that I wish Red Cloud had warned us about was the long hours spent studying, crying and stressing about school. I have noticed that a majority of the classes in college is teaching yourself the material and having your nose in a book most of the day. We could better prepare students by giving them time invested assignments that they will endure in college. Also, providing more critical thinking questions in class and let them experience what it’s like to be put on the spot. Another Idea is to talking and networking in class with complete strangers, because at a big university there might not be anyone you know. Also, get a planner, whether it’s on your phone or a paper one. It will save your life and help you stay organized in school, work and other activities. Practicing organization and time management are the key things because life gets hectic and you just have to learn how to deal with what happens.

What's next for you?

My focus for now is finishing my second degree and applying to graduate school in a master’s or a Ph. D program. I want to go to graduate school in the fall of 2020 or the following year. After graduate school I want to go on to medical school. I'm really passionate about indigenous medicine and Eastern medicine. I want to learn about how other cultures do their practices in the medical field. I want to learn about our indigenous medicines as well as about Western medicine, to help my people to the best of my abilities.




Photos © Red Cloud Indian School 


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