Red Cloud graduates lead nation in Gates Millennium Scholars

Summer 2011 Red Cloud Country

Nine students from Red Cloud Indian School have been named recipients of the 2011 Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholarship. The seniors—all who will be attending college this fall—distinguish the institution with the most scholarship recipients per capita in the nation.

“This scholarship exemplifies and celebrates our students’ accomplishments these past four years,” says Robert Brave Heart Sr., superintendent of schools. “It’s been wonderful to witness how seriously they’ve taken their education. This is testament to their commitment to higher learning. I know I speak for everyone at Red Cloud, and across the Lakota nation, when I say we are truly proud of them.” 

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the scholarship program pays for any unmet financial need a student may have during their post-secondary studies at any institution in the country. 

“Receiving the Gates is a big accomplishment for me—it has saved my life,” says DeAndra McLaughlin ’11, who will attend Stanford University this fall. “I feel as if I have nothing to worry about. I am very thankful for this scholarship, which gets me closer to my career dreams.”

“It’s amazing! I still can’t believe it,” adds Sonyah Clifford ’11, who will head to the University of Arizona this fall. “This scholarship means that I can do anything, that I can be anything. This is my opportunity to learn, grow and come back to help the children of my tribe.” 

In addition to having the highest number of Gates scholars in the country, this year is also a personal record for Red Cloud. Last year, six students earned scholarships, with seven the year before. 

“I was in shock when my mom first told me that I got the Gates,” says David Means ’11. “With this scholarship I can now further my education without putting the burden of tuition costs on my family.” 

The Gates Millennium Scholarship is awarded to students who exemplify excellence in the classroom and leadership within their own communities. Students at Red Cloud who are interested in this scholarship participate in an essay writing class, are mentored by college students and professors through a program with Creighton University and are encouraged to attend summer programs designed to teach them more about the college and financial aid application process.

“This year’s senior class was a really hardworking and focused class,” says Michael Sunderland, research and technical writing teacher in the high school. “The Gates application process requires a lot of time and dedication. It is very joyful that so many of the students received it, and a great honor to them all as it simply commemorates all of their hard work.”

“It really was a long, vigorous application process but education is the key to having a successful career and I am really happy and relieved that it all paid off,” says Kiley Weston ’11. “I want to thank all of our parents, teachers—especially Mike—and all of the mentors at Creighton who helped us and believed in us.”

“I still can’t believe it,” adds Raven Gray ’11. “A full ride to college with all expenses paid! I know our families couldn’t be prouder, happier or more grateful.”

In total, 54 students from Red Cloud High School have been awarded the Gates scholarship since the program’s inception in 1999. Today, they are attending some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges, including Princeton University and Dartmouth College. Many Red Cloud students move on to graduate degree programs after college graduation.