Graduating Seniors Earn National Scholarships

posted on May 13, 2013

For more than a year, Red Cloud Indian School seniors have been pouring over applications for some of the nation’s most prestigious scholarships.   With graduation fast approaching, their hard work is paying off. Red Cloud seniors Shane Star and Stormy Williams just became two of the newest recipients of the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

Always a highly competitive process, applications for the Gates Millennium Scholarship more than doubled this year, reaching a record high of 54,000. Star and Williams are two of just 1,000 students nationwide selected to receive the award.

“For our students, this is an opportunity with endless possibilities,” explains Robin Johnson, Red Cloud High School’s principal. “The Gates Scholarship has opened the door for 59 Red Cloud graduates to date. We are so proud of their hard work and dedication.” 

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program—initially funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—provides a good-through-graduation scholarship to 1,000 minority students to attend the college of their choice, following them to graduate and doctoral work in some fields. Allowing students to pursue their dreams without incurring financial debt, the program also provides personal and professional development and academic support throughout their college careers. To receive the scholarship, applicants must maintain a GPA of 3.3 and demonstrate a commitment to academic excellence, leadership and community service.

Williams says she “was in shock” when she received the telltale heavy package indicating she had won the Gates. But once the news sunk in, she was able to reflect on the significance of her accomplishment.

“Receiving the Gates Scholarship helped me see how my past experiences and struggles have helped shape me into who I am today, while also giving me the confidence to pursue all of my goals,” she explains.

While at Red Cloud, Williams held honor roll status and excelled in English and math, taking Advanced Placement classes in both subjects.  She also competed in powwows across the state through Red Cloud’s dance club and hand games team. Williams plans to study medicine and will enroll at the University of New Mexico this fall.

For Star, who excels at math and plans on majoring in either civil or mechanical engineering, receiving the Gates Scholarship was exhilarating. “I was so excited,” he explains. “I couldn’t stop smiling.”

Also an honor role student, Star has received awards for his mastery of geometry and trigonometry. In the fall, he will continue to pursue his passion for math and engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines.

In addition to the Gates, students at Red Cloud have been awarded a number of other highly competitive academic scholarships this year. Shane Star also received a $5,000 Horatio Alger Scholarship, along with fellow seniors Amanda Standing Bear and Justina Bagola. The Horatio Alger Scholarship Program is the only major scholarship effort that focuses on assisting students who have faced and overcome significant obstacles. The program seeks to recognize students who are committed to using their college degrees in service to others.  

Other Red Cloud students are receiving good news about individual scholarships from top universities in the region and across the country. Senior January Tobacco will begin her studies at Stanford University in the fall on a nearly full scholarship. Mickie Hudspeth received the Diversity Scholarship from Augustana University in Sioux Falls. A number of students received generous scholarships from the University of New Mexico, where seniors Sierra Concha and Christian Phelps will attend this fall.

As scholarships and college acceptances continue to roll in, Red Cloud’s teachers and administrators are celebrating along with students. For Michael Sunderland, who teaches English composition and worked closely with this year’s senior class on college readiness, it is a joy to witness their success.

“I am so happy to hear about the scholarships and college acceptances this class has earned. They worked extremely hard, and I am proud of their effort.”