Celebrating their Accomplishments: Red Cloud’s Newest Graduates Earn Over $2 Million in College Scholarships

posted May 22, 2017

On May 20th, Red Cloud Indian School held its high school graduation—and the 42 members of the class of 2017 completed one more step in their educational journeys. As each senior received their diploma, families, friends, and school staff applauded all their accomplishments. And for this class, there was a particularly remarkable reason to celebrate: as a group, they earned over $2 million in college scholarships.  

“Here on the reservation, going to college is never taken for granted. Many families live well below the poverty line. That has a big impact on kids completing high school—and when they do, covering the cost of college tuition is often out of the question,” said Red Cloud’s Superintendent Walt Swan, Jr. “Our students overcome incredible odds through hard work and a deep commitment not only themselves and to their families, but to the Lakota community. We couldn’t be more proud.”

Red Cloud’s newest graduates will be attending colleges across the country—from Brown to Creighton, the University of South Dakota to the University of California, Los Angeles. They plan to study medicine, political science, Native American culture and language, and much more. Ninety-eight percent of the class of 2017 will be going on to postsecondary education, and one student will proudly serve in the Armed Forces.

But to many on Red Cloud’s campus, what’s most important isn’t where graduates are going next. It’s the fact that many hope to return to the reservation to support local communities here. In their own unique ways, each graduate is focused on helping to solve some of the most critical challenges facing Pine Ridge.

New graduate Taylor Brooks ’17, one of the seven Red Cloud students who earned the Horatio Alger Scholarship this year, has always been driven to create positive change. Faced with the too-common reality of teen suicide on the reservation, she started a youth group in her community focused on its prevention.

“I met weekly with youth to talk about topics like suicide, teen pregnancy, and drug and alcohol prevention, “ she said. “I feel like I made a difference—even just making an impact on a few kids is a major step.”

That experience is part of what draws her to a career in psychology.

“I’m going to the University of California, Los Angeles in the fall, to major in psychology. I want to understand the brain—to understand why people do what they do, so that you can help them on a deeper level with their problems,” she said. “I want to do well in school and eventually get my doctorate—and then come back to the reservation to be a psychologist or child therapist, in order to help my people.”

Connor Richards ’17 will start his next school year at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he received a significant scholarship. His focus is on science: he plans to study physics, chemistry, and math and pursue work in research labs to gain practical experience.

In the future, though, Connor also dreams of coming back to Pine Ridge to use his skills for good.

“I hope to become a professor,” he said, “and then go back to school to get a degree in secondary education” and work to expand educational opportunities on the reservation.

And Savannah Jacobs ’17, who plans to study political science and business next year at Arizona State University (ASU), says she is focused on identifying “what I can do for others.” After college, she hopes to launch an organization devoted to supporting children through the kinds of personal struggles she experienced in her own life.

Savannah knows it will take resources to make that dream a reality. And that’s why she’s so grateful to be one of two Red Cloud students receiving a full, four-year scholarship to ASU, through the support of the True Sioux Hope Foundation.

She calls the scholarship a “huge gift” that brought tears of joy to her eyes. And while she plans to use that gift for the good of others, she is taking this moment to celebrate all that she has accomplished so far. 

“I’m a person who likes to think about other people,” she explained. “But I know I deserve this. I believe it’s the answer I’ve been looking for. And I know this is God’s way for telling me that it’s my time. I have to make the most of it.”

Photos © Red Cloud Indian School



Welcome Back to School—from our Lakȟóta Immersion Teachers


Building a Spiritual Community—Across the Miles


Standing With Community Artists


Celebrating Red Cloud's Athletes—Past and Present