Kiley Weston ’11


Pine Ridge, South Dakota


Senior Kiley Weston has become known at Red Cloud High School for his leadership skills in the classroom and sportsmanship on the basketball court. After traveling to the Middle East this summer with the Seeking Common Grounds Organization under their flagship program Building Bridges for Peace, he’s also gained a greater appreciation for his Lakota culture and identity, and the need for peace in the world.

Asked and Answered

How did the opportunity to go to the Middle East come about?

Last year, Tiara Little and I were nominated to be part of “The Badlands Peace Project.” As part of the program, we met with students from local schools off the reservation to learn more about each other—about their culture and background, which is different from mine. We discussed a lot about the racial issues that continue today and learned how to work toward ending those stereotypes. After that whole weekend of workshops and team building activities, we were invited to go on this international trip where we would learn more about cultures outside the United States.

How did you feel about being invited to take part in this exciting international program?

It was an honor. Thrilling! For me, it was the opportunity of a lifetime to leave the United States and learn about whole new countries—countries struggling and people working hard toward peace.

What were your first impressions when you finally arrived in Tel Aviv?

I was overwhelmed with fear, excitement and anxiety. We got briefed in Denver about some of the hostility that takes place there, so I was afraid that something might happen. But also, I was excited about the possibilities that would present themselves on the trip.

Once you settled into your trip, what did you find fascinating? Surprising?

Just being able to explore the Jewish and Arab communities was interesting, especially understanding the history of conflict between the two. The people we spoke were either really for war or really trying to find peace. There seemed to be no in-between. We got to hear different sides of the story, and then used these stories to develop conflict-resolution techniques that we took back home to the United States. One thing we learned was the difference between recognized and unrecognized communities. It taught me a lot about identity—both for one’s self and also for their people.

What do you remember most about your trip to the Middle East?

The people. We met so many great people, honest and willing to have a dialogue with us. There are many things visually that also stick out still. The land was covered with ruff terrain and rocky areas, making it difficult to get places. One community had a one-room schoolhouse. That’s it! The houses were like little shacks and although some houses have electricity, many didn’t. Seeing all of this made me happy and proud to be from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where we have a great school and a good home to come home to. While we still have poverty here on the reservation, it’s nothing like a lot of the places we visited. Everyday I felt lucky to be from America. The people in the Middle East have little freedom. A lot of the people there live everyday without a lot of things that we take for granted… such as food, running water and electricity. The whole trip was a very humbling experience.

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