Volunteer Program

Red Cloud volunteers provide many educational and related services to the students at Red Cloud Indian School, while contributing to the economic sustainability and overall well-being of the school. Moreover, they support Red Cloud’s ability to continue providing hope and a high quality education of both the mind and the heart to Lakota students for generations to come.

The basics

Since 1979, Red Cloud Indian School has recruited approximately 20 young college graduates each year to serve as volunteer teachers and aides on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Carefully chosen from many applicants across the country, these volunteers live on the Red Cloud and Our Lady of Lourdes campuses, committing themselves to a ministry of service to Lakota children, living simply on an impoverished Indian reservation, and nourishing their faith life while living amongst another culture. The average commitment of a Red Cloud volunteer is two years.

  • The Pine Ridge Reservation is cloaked in a history of struggle: Even with a government system in place, education does not always receive the support necessary to develop the strong Lakota leaders of tomorrow. 
  • Classrooms must accommodate students of differing levels and abilities, and all kinds of individual needs: academic, social and emotional. Classroom challenges, then, are at times identical to those present in a dominant society: some are more severe, and some are indicative of the culture in which Red Cloud students live. 
  • Most students experience unimaginable hardships, ranging from split parents and young mothers to neglect and alcoholism. 

Red Cloud volunteers, who serve as teachers, classroom aides and other support staff, create part of that environment. Each one is another mentor with whom students can look to as a positive role model.

A unique position

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, roughly the size of Connecticut, is home to 30,000 Native Americans. Isolation, amidst the beauty, is a glaring mark. With little by way of entertainment, aside from high school athletic events and powwows, gangs, alcohol and drugs often seduce reservation youth. Local law enforcement believe that over 3,500 youth may be involved in gang-related activities, accounting for close to 70 percent of the crime on the reservation.

Within this context Red Cloud provides a quality education of the mind and heart to approximately 600 Lakota children. The positive examples and youthfulness of Red Cloud volunteers make them “magnets” for many students, who need extra confidence just to attend school on a regular basis. The friendships volunteers make with students last beyond the time spent on campus:

A Red Cloud volunteer’s experience is not one of isolation but, rather, one filled with the unique opportunity to work with the Oglala Lakota children.

Red Cloud volunteers play a major role in educating the hearts and minds of students. Volunteers help younger students gain a strong foundation in their studies by helping with the reading and math programs. A volunteer greets many students first thing in the morning as they step on a bus to come to school, and often a volunteer is the last person from Red Cloud who tells them they will “see them tomorrow.” Beyond the classroom, volunteers coach teams, drive bus routes, attend and chaperone school events, participate in parish activities and often spend time visiting with students and their families at their homes. Volunteers have a direct and important role in encouraging Red Cloud students to pursue their dreams while at the same time, reaching some of their own personal goals.


Red Cloud volunteers bring an incredible amount of vitality, generosity and talent to the schools in which they serve. Year after year volunteers testify that they themselves receive much more than they give as they interact with the children and their families in a very different cultural environment. The Red Cloud Volunteer Program provides well over 36,000 hours of service to the schools and reservation community each year. Outcomes of the program include:

  • The provision of high quality education, coaching, bus transportation, and almost every facet of school operations by well qualified, recent college graduates; 
  • The infusion of experiences and broader worldviews that are shared with students by volunteers who come from all over the country and from various backgrounds, playing a large role in encouraging the students to dream bigger dreams; 
  • The continued ability of Red Cloud to provide not only educational but also wrap-around services to the students served as a result of the infusion of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of personnel time contributed by the volunteers; 
  • A concrete, living example to the students and community about the importance of service to others. 

Help champion this initiative

Contribute to the success of this initiative by making a gift online or calling our Advancement Office at 605/867-1105 ext. 300 to learn more about how your family or foundation can partner with us.