For Lakota students from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the Counseling Program at Red Cloud Indian School provides the foundation for students to receive the support and tools they need to overcome the challenges they face, recognize their own giftedness and achieve their dreams after graduation.

The basics

The Counseling Program at Red Cloud Indian School is an integral component in the creation of opportunities for the types of successes students have accomplished in recent years. In order to overcome the ever-present barriers on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and the challenging factors that make the Lakota students “at-risk,” the Counseling Program conducts a variety of activities that go above and beyond traditional guidance counseling techniques.

These activities address not only college and career readiness and preparation, but also the development of and respect for the whole self (physical, mental, emotional and social) while educating on conflict resolution techniques, goal setting and achievement, and addiction and suicide prevention, to name a few. Specific programming within the program includes:

  • College and career guidance, beginning with the development of career portfolios at the freshmen level that help students set goals, keep adequate records and track progress toward key achievements throughout their high school career. Through the portfolios, students focus on developing critical and creative thinking skills, making good decisions, problem-solving, developing strong and healthy interpersonal skills, organizing high school and college-readiness records and the identification of individual career interests; 
  • High quality and caring counselors who create one-on-one relationships with each of the students; 
  • A focus on emotional and social development through individualized and group counseling that bridges the gap between a student’s physical and emotional needs and their academic capabilities. Through these activities, students are given tools to deal with the specific issues that can block their path to future successes (alcohol and drug issues, suicide prevention issues and the building of strong and healthy relationships of support); 
  • ACT test preparation classes during the junior year; 
  • Technological training; 
  • Chaperoned college campus visits (including financial support for these), information dissemination about financial aid opportunities, and outside support like the University Mentor Program that pairs high school students with college faculty who advise the students during the college and financial aid application process and then provides strategic support as they transition into the higher education setting; and, 
  • Events such as Healthy Life Choices Week, which includes guest speakers, career choice information, as well as programs and drug prevention and managing other similar challenges. This week is spent reflecting on the lessons learned, and helping students to integrate those lessons into their lives. 

In 2007, Red Cloud initiated an effort to support graduates once they had moved onto further study and careers. For many students, after experiencing a close-knit setting at Red Cloud, the anonymity of life on a college campus was a difficult adjustment. While most Red Cloud graduates excel in their further studies, the development of a position dedicated to the transition from high school to college was based on the knowledge that many will benefit greatly by a continuation of the personal support that they receive at Red Cloud.

Now, through the support of the Director of Student Advancement and Alumni Affairs, Red Cloud graduates are offered the close-knit support that they received while at Red Cloud, encouraging their further education. This support, as well as those built through connections made with other alumni, is key to giving graduates the perseverance to continue to build their dreams for their future, both on and off the reservation.

A unique position

High quality guidance counseling and alumni relations are important activities for any educational institution. For students from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, these activities are simply a must: they provide the foundation—and sometimes the only foundation—from which students can recognize their own giftedness.

Through the Counseling Program, Red Cloud students are given the tools and support they need to say, “Yes I can!” when so much in their daily lives on the reservation says, “You probably can’t.” As a result, the program is a model that can be replicated by other reservation schools across the nation.


The statistics collected about Red Cloud’s high school students over the past several years indicate that the Red Cloud Counseling Program, in combination with the other facets of a Red Cloud education, are helping to combat some of the bleak statistics on the reservation, and are effective in creating highly qualified, academically prepared students who are ready for success in college and beyond. An increasing number of students have achieved amazing accomplishments over the last several years.

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.