Red Cloud Graduates Take on the Ivy League

posted June 14, 2016 

This fall, three Red Cloud seniors will take their place in the class of 2020 at three of the nation’s most elite colleges. Between them—Marlee Kelly, Jacob Cousin, Bobby Pourier—they were accepted at four of the eight universities that make up the Ivy League. Although Red Cloud students have attended Ivy League schools in the past, never before has a senior class earned acceptances to so many at once. And around campus, amidst joyful graduation celebrations, Red Cloud students, teachers and staff are marking this extraordinary accomplishment.

“We are so exceptionally proud of all our seniors this year and it’s absolutely amazing to have three of them heading off to Ivy League colleges,” said Robert Brave Heart, Sr., Red Cloud’s executive vice president.

“There is no doubt that, as individuals, they are embarking on a journey toward a very bright future. But their success means much more than that. They will bring with them their unique perspective as Native students—and they’ll have the chance to share the stories and experiences of Lakota communities in places where they have not frequently been heard. Our students carry the voices of their people and these graduates will be capable ambassadors.”

When Marlee Kelly began the college application process, Washington University in St. Louis was at the top of her list: she had visited its campus several years before and loved the experience. But ultimately, she decided she wanted to expand her search and expand her limits.

“This year I wanted to push myself and see if I could get into these big schools. So I applied and I got in….I’m so happy for where we’re all going, I’m so happy we’re all going to succeed. I know we can and I know we will.”

In addition to Washington University, Marlee was accepted at Harvard and Yale, among others. She credits the strong support she received at Red Cloud—from the first day of kindergarten to her last day of classes as a graduating senior—as a key to her success. Seeking a similar support system in college, she has selected Yale because of the closely-knit Native community that thrives on its campus. Her dream is to become a teacher. And while she plans to teach in other places in the world, she knows she will return to Pine Ridge and serve as a role model for other Lakota students.

“I’ve always wanted to be a good example for kids. That’s always been in the back of my mind. My mom has always made sure to remind me that ‘you’ll be an example for everyone that follows you.’ So when I got into these schools, I [realized] that people are going to see that, people are going to know that they can do it. It’s hard work, but it’s possible. I hope they’ll see that and want to do it, too.”

As a junior, Jacob Cousin was uncertain about where he wanted to go to college and what he wanted to study. He selected a number of schools almost at random and planned to apply. But the summer before his senior year he had the chance to travel to Brown University and participate in their TheatreBridge program, a six-week, immersive residency for aspiring theatre artists that combines acting and dance. Jacob fell in love with Brown—and with the idea of pursuing studies in the performing arts. This fall he will arrive on Brown’s campus to follow that dream.

Along with Jacob and Marlee, senior Bobby Pourier applied to some of the country’s top colleges. In all, he was accepted to four Ivy League institutions: Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth. With such extraordinary options before him, Bobby is planning to pursue an undergraduate degree—and ultimately a doctorate—in experimental psychology at Yale. He dreams of coming back to the reservation to conduct crucial research on social issues that continue to plague Native communities, from substance abuse to depression.

Bobby, Jacob, and Marlee have all graduated and physically left Red Cloud this school year. But their accomplishments will continue to serve as a reminder to other students about what is possible through education, commitment and a supportive community.

“I have no doubt that these students—and all our graduating seniors—will go out and set the world on fire with their talent, their passion, and their commitment to their people,” said Fr. George Winzenburg, S.J., Red Cloud’s president. “We will all continue to look to them as examples of the tremendous hope and promise that exists on this campus. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them, and for all our Red Cloud students.”

See the full graduation gallery HERE


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Photos © Red Cloud Indian School