In the Shadow of Crazy Horse: Red Cloud Graduate Completes Unique Cultural Summer Program

posted August 30, 2016 

Each day this summer, Red Cloud graduate Jazzlyn Weston ’16 watched the sun rise and set around the Crazy Horse Memorial’s rocky mountain peak. Out her window and high above her, she could see the carved face of the revered tribal leader gazing out into the Black Hills, a deeply sacred place to the Lakota people. As a participant in the unique summer program operated in partnership by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation and the University of South Dakota, Jazzlyn had the chance to study, work and live for eight weeks beside the mountain memorial. And each day, it continued to take her breath away.

“Just being here and living next to the world’s largest rock sculpture—it was like magic,” said Jazzlyn.

In the midst of her last year at Red Cloud, Jazzlyn decided to apply to the program—called the Indian University of North America® —in order to prepare herself for the challenges of college and career. The summer program at Crazy Horse has two distinct components: over eight weeks, participants complete college-level, accelerated courses while also taking part in a paid internship at the Memorial’s museum and cultural center. By the end of the summer, they earn credits for the equivalent of a full university semester as well as valuable work experience for the future.

For Jazzlyn, that combination proved to be a powerful experience.

“This summer I took psychology, an English class, and a Native studies and history class. And I think the highlight was realizing the workload that you get in college. Now I know what to expect this fall. It’s been a challenge, but the professors here are so wonderful. We have weekly meetings to discuss how we’re doing and what we should plan for next,” said Jazzlyn. “Whenever you need help, there’s always someone there to help you.”

For her internship, Jazzlyn trained to be a tour guide and led people from all over the world through the monument’s museum and cultural center.

“I was initially interested in this program because of the internship—there aren’t many job opportunities on the Pine Ridge Reservation, and I thought it would be good to add some work experience to my resume before going to college,” she explained.

“But it ended up being much more than just work. People come from all over to see the monument—and they were so open to learning. They listened carefully to what I shared about our history and culture and were interested in hearing about where I come from. I really like educating people, particularly on things that are often misconstrued about Native Americans. It was amazing to be able to do that and it ended up being my favorite part of the experience.”

The program’s strong cultural component was another draw for Jazzlyn. Native history and culture was integrated into all of her coursework. And as part of her Native studies course, she attended weekly presentations featuring accomplished Native Americans from across the continent.

“We heard from artists, museum curators, academics, and others—and it’s been an amazing opportunity to engage with speakers from backgrounds very similar to mine,” said Jazzlyn. “It’s inspiring to see how much they’ve done with their lives.”

Looking back at the program, Jazzlyn recognizes how much it helped her identify what she does—and doesn’t—want to focus on in the next phase of her education. She says she enjoyed studying psychology, but probably won’t pursue it as a major as she once thought she might. And while she has always enjoyed English classes, after drafting longer and more complex essays this summer, she has discovered a new passion for composition and writing.

Jazzlyn is now preparing to head off to college as the summer winds down. But regardless of what direction she takes in her education, she says her time at Crazy Horse will continue to inspire her in the years to come.

“I gained so much from this experience—from the amazing teachers, all the people who I met coming through on tours, and just being able to live beside this incredible monument,” said Jazzlyn. “It’s taught me so much, and I will always remember it.” 


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Photos © Red Cloud Indian School