Red Cloud alum returns to campus for activity day

posted on April 17, 2012

Red Cloud graduate Mackenzie Casey ’04 recently paid a return visit to his alma mater in order to help put on a clinic for middle school students.

Casey, a graduate of South Dakota State University, was a co-captain of the Division I SDSU Jackrabbits basketball team, and the starting point guard during his senior year. He came back to Red Cloud on this occasion as a representative of the South Dakota GEARUP program. Casey and four other GEARUP staff members led the fifth-eighth graders in various high-energy activities, including basketball drills, yoga, and jump roping. In addition, the visitors talked to the participating students about the importance of doing well in school, and of continuing their education at the college level.

The GEARUP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduates Program) initiative is a nationwide US Department of Education effort that began in 1999. The organization’s mission is, "To increase the number of American Indian students that achieve success in higher education through a rigorous, pre-college enrichment program that is acceleration-based and comprehensive by design." College readiness interventions and strategies are focused on matriculation and retention at critical transition points, particularly 8th-to-9th grade and 12th grade-to-college.

At the center of South Dakota’s GEARUP is a cohort-based, summer residential, pre-college enrichment program focused on Native American students. Originally this program targeted students and their families beginning in the eighth grade and followed them through high school, but then it expanded downward to include middle school students. Red Cloud Middle School has been involved with the program for the past eight years.

The success rate of the summer program is exceptional. Every alumnus is a high school graduate, eighty-seven percent went on to post-secondary education and nine percent entered the military. Currently, 65 percent of program alumni have graduated from college or are still enrolled. Program strategies and interventions are aligned with scientific-based evidence that validate the model in terms of high school graduation and matriculation. These results validate the effectiveness of the model for American Indian students and their families.

More information on SD GEARUP can be found at

More information on Mackenzie Casey ’04 can be found HERE.

A photo gallery of the GEARUP can be found HERE.