Red Cloud High School announces partnership with South Dakota’s three state universities

State’s three university presidents, executive director of Board of Regents to attend formal signing of new mentorship program on March 22

posted on March 1, 2011

Red Cloud Indian School has joined forces with South Dakota’s three state universities to establish a University Mentor Program for Lakota juniors and seniors attending the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation school. University presidents from Black Hills State, South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota will all be at Red Cloud on Tuesday, March 22 to celebrate the collaboration.

Jack Warner, executive director and chief executive officer of the South Dakota Board of Regents, and Dr. Sam Gingerich, system vice president for academic affairs, will also be in attendance.

“As more and more of our students are choosing South Dakota’s public universities to continue their education after high school graduation, we felt it important to strengthen our relationship with them—and make a formal commitment to provide the resources and support network our students deserve,” says Tashina Banks, director of student advancement and alumni support, who has worked on this project with Superintendent Bob Brave Heart Sr. and high school administrators.

Banks says the goal of the University Mentor Program is not just to increase the number of Red Cloud students enrolling in state schools, but also to begin to create a community of people away from the reservation who can support these students throughout their college career.

“Our kids are community oriented,” notes Banks. “If you talk to the students in college who are doing really well, you’ll learn that they are the students who have found a community on campus. Whether that is a faculty or staff member, fellow Red Cloud alumna or a distant relative, they are doing better because a close-knit community surrounds them. We want to build on that—and can, through this program.”

The University Mentor Program is modeled after an already successful, proven program with Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, in which Red Cloud juniors who have chosen to learn more about the university are paired with a faculty mentor from Creighton. During their senior year in high school, students travel to Creighton to learn about the campus, it’s academic programming and what it’s like to go to college. In the late fall of their senior year, the faculty mentors travel to Red Cloud and help the students finish their college applications and essays, and apply for scholarships. The mentorship evolves during that student’s first year of college, serving as a familiar face—and a friend—as they navigate through their four years of college.

Red Cloud Alum James Lays Bad ’05, a 2010 graduate of Black Hills State University with a degree in American Indian Studies and a fluent Lakota speaker, attributes his success not just to his family who supported him throughout his college career, but also to the staff of American Indian Services at Black Hills State. He says whenever he was homesick, the staff “pulled him in” with resources and support to stay in school, earn his degree and flourish as a young Lakota man. It was his “home away from home.”

“I hope James’ relationship with the staff of Black Hills State is just one of many stories we’ll be able to tell now that this partnership has been established,” adds Banks.

In attendance on Tuesday, March 22 will be the presidents from the three state schools, representatives from the American Indian Services Offices, President George Winzenburg SJ and Superintendent Bob Brave Heart Sr. from Red Cloud Indian School, and high school juniors and students. The day will begin with a tour of the high school campus, followed by the formal signing at 10 a.m. and a celebratory luncheon afterward.

For more information, contact Banks at 605/867-1105 ext. 302.