Alumni Profile: Juwan Lakota '07

posted on August 27, 2012

1. Talk a little bit about your childhood: where you grew up, where you went to school, how many years you attended Red Cloud, etc.

Well, I grew up South of Oglala in the sticks. I’m sure everyone has driven through a place just like it at one point or another; that place between nowhere and “Where am I?”. I never really had any problems living so far from everyone else. The time I spent growing up isolated helped me develop a very broad imagination and let me discover a lot about myself (well, as much as one could begin to understand about self-discovery as a child). I was raised by my Unci (that’s “grandmother”, for those of you who don’t speak the language). She taught me love and showed me where to keep my heart. Meanwhile, my uncle taught me how to hunt and how to work on cars. In between the love and all the oil spills, I began my educational career in kindergarten at Wolf Creek School east of Pine Ridge, I transferred my first grade year to Loneman School and remained there until the 8th grade. I then went onto Red Cloud (Go ‘Saders!) for my high school years (and I bought every single yearbook!). During my time at RCHS, I was a wrestler and part-time football player.

2. What have you been doing academically and professionally since graduating from Red Cloud? What have been some of the high points?

After graduation, I went on to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado to pursue a course of study in biology. I dropped that plan after the first semester, and instead went on to study indigenous peoples of the Southwest. That class peaked my interest into minoring in Native American and Indigenous Studies. I am currently a Criminology major at Fort Lewis. I have also recently started a modeling career, and am now looking to an acting career as well. In terms of athletics, I play intramural basketball, and my team won the championship 5v5 tournament during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

3. Describe the path you took to get from graduating from Red Cloud to where you are today. How did you develop an interest in what you are doing nowadays, and how did you make your dream a reality?

I am definitely not the same person I was in high school – not by a long shot. I am more determined and goal-oriented now. My modeling work was something that I never dreamed about earlier in life, but when the opportunity presented itself, I just gave a shot and it took off. I have similarly high hopes for a career in film.

4. What obstacles did you have to overcome, or what were the greatest roadblocks you encountered?

Just being away from home and my family was a challenge, especially at first. But my grandfather once told me that I should see the world and all it has to offer before coming back home. He said “South Dakota isn’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.”

5. What do you see yourself doing over the next year? The next five years? Ten years? What are your greatest hopes and aspirations for yourself?

I see myself on the cover of a magazine, representing my people and making them proud. I want to be in film. I plan to follow my criminology major and pursue a career as a criminal investigator if the other work becomes tiresome.

6. How did your educational experience at Red Cloud prepare you for the life you live today, in terms of skills, values, attitudes, etc.

Actually, RCHS would have provided me the opportunity to go anywhere by applying for the Gates Scholarship, but unfortunately I never really applied my brain in high school. I was too concerned with trivial issues related to my teenage development, such as girls and status among fellow classmates. As a consequence, I never took the chance and applied for the scholarship. I did, however, receive a few scholarships upon graduation from RCHS. If I had been as determined then as I am today, I would have certainly gotten a few scholarships in different athletic areas and some in the academics field as well. That said, I have no regrets. I have learned that walking forward means never taking any steps back as long as you’re headed in the direction of your future. I would say that since Red Cloud, I have learned to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.

7. How does Red Cloud continue to be a part of your life?

I have stopped by RCHS a few times and walked the halls to relive memories and see my favorite instructors, but like all good things, change has occurred. The RCHS that I remember is no longer there, and a lot of the old high school building has been remodeled and transformed. As I see it, the school has become even more of a home for bright and up-and-coming minds; an “airport” of sorts for new wings to take flight. I am happy to see that Red Cloud is still making a difference.

8. Please talk about anything else that you feel is important to know about you.

I had to say anything to the current students, it would be this: Don’t procrastinate in high school; it’s only the beginning. Don’t give up and settle for the life you have now because you’ll be given the opportunities to make it better. I grew up with only a bag filled with my hopes and dreams, and after high school I finally got to unpack that bag. Try every extracurricular activity in high school. Every one of you has talent; you just have to find where it is! And don’t be scared to be unique and original. Finally, don’t fall in love before you’re 20. The world is full billions of people and chances are whomever you’re with now is nowhere near as great as the person you could meet down the road, in college or beyond. Take it from me…I was there too. Respectfully, Juwan Lakota