Completing the Circle, Former Red Cloud Students Share Wisdom in Commencement Speeches

posted on June 5, 2013

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

In his commencement address at Our Lady of Lourdes on May 29, Red Cloud High School Athletic Director Christian McGhee repeated the school’s graduation motto, emphasizing its significance in his own life.  “To be successful in whatever it is that you want to do in life, you [must] create your own destiny,” he told students.

This spring, McGhee and Amanda Carlow, a Red Cloud Middle School counselor and coach, delivered keynote addresses at schools on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Both former Red Cloud students and now employees of the school, McGhee and Carlow spoke to the realities that students face on the reservation and shared how they overcame challenges in order to succeed.

“Graduates, please know that you will face hardships and things may not always go your way,” said Carlow to the audience at Wolf Creek School’s eighth grade graduation. Carlow, who recently completed her master’s degree in counseling at Creighton University, recalled the story of running her first marathon.

With only three miles left in the race, Carlow realized that rocks in her shoe were impairing her ability to run and had to decide whether to stop. “I didn’t stop running though, I felt like if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to get going again, so as I ran I kicked my shoe off, I bent over to pick it up and kept running,” said Carlow.

“Try not to let bumps in the road or rocks in your shoe steer you in the wrong direction,” she continued. “Take your time, ask for help, and reach out – you have more people rooting for you than you know! When you face challenges and you feel like giving up, remember the reasons that you started in the first place.”

McGhee, who went on to Chadron State College to pursue a degree in Sports and Recreation Management after graduating in 2008, told students, family and community members that his ultimate goal was to get a degree and play basketball. And while it took hard work, he accomplished his goal.

“When I was your age, I figured something out. I would sacrifice being a ‘regular’ kid in order to be successful. I wouldn’t party when my friends were; I made sure I was in the gym no matter what; my motto was ‘No days off,’” said McGhee.

McGhee reminded graduates that, “It’s not about where you come from, it’s about heart. I didn’t want to be another statistic on the reservation, I wanted to chase something great.”

During his time at Red Cloud, McGhee helped lead his basketball team to the state tournament in 2008 while staying on the honor roll.  He then moved on to play basketball throughout all four years of college, before becoming the first Red Cloud graduate to be offered a head coach and athletic director position directly out of college. Returning to guide and support current students, McGhee is a prime example of a Red Cloud graduate ‘Completing the Circle.’ “I want to continue in the strong tradition of Red Cloud’s athletic program; …coming back and helping the people …and the [school] that I graduated from,” he said in a previous interview.

Concluding his remarks, McGhee encouraged Our Lady of Lourdes graduates to make a firm commitment to their dreams.  “To succeed you can’t take breaks. No days off. For me all the odds were against me, being from the reservation and only being 5’7”. Only one in every 20,000 high school graduates play college basketball. So [I had] to work harder than 19,999 kids to make it,” he explained.

“If you only remember one thing from me today, it is simple. Whatever it is you want to do, go do it. Everyday with no breaks.”

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