Meet Red Cloud's Class of 2021

Red Cloud’s Class of 2021 defines perseverance. For almost their entire senior year, to stay safe in the pandemic, they were separated from their teachers and classmates, all while managing the intense process of determining their journey beyond high school. Meet four of Red Cloud’s newest graduates here, and help us celebrate their extraordinary accomplishments!


Red Cloud Graduate Shilo

Tell us about yourself and how long you’ve been a Red Cloud student?
I was born in Pine Ridge but then we moved away to North Dakota during kindergarten. When I was in sixth grade we moved back here, and I started at another school, and then I finally came to Red Cloud in eighth grade.

Going to three different schools, I don't think I really thrived more than at Red Cloud. I didn't fit in too much for a while, but once I hit high school, I felt like that's where I really peaked. I started doing well in math, started doing good in all my grades, and in sports. Before I wasn't very driven, or looking forward to accomplishments, until my sophomore year, when I started finally getting letters from colleges to play football already, and getting offers to go to schools already for other scholarships in academics.

And right now, as a senior, I feel like this school really helped me become greater, become who I am. I felt like the teachers really helped me out, and they definitely know what's wrong and know how to fix it. Every year I felt like I did better and better.

What was it like doing distance learning for almost your whole senior year, and what helped you through those challenges?
Doing virtual learning at the start of the year...my grades went down. It was stressful. It was depressing...not being around people really took a toll on me. I never thought I'd feel that type of sad, but I did. I think the main thing that got me through it was remembering how much potential I still had to succeed and the opportunities were still open for me. My mother really kept on pushing me over and over again. I complained to her saying, I'm not going to be good enough, I'm not going to be strong enough, I'm probably not even going to pass. She reminded me that I was going to pass. And being back now with my classmates, it's way better. I really enjoy it, and I'm making the most of it.

What was the best part of the Red Cloud experience and what will you miss most after you graduate?
The best part of my Red Cloud experience were events that we do in school, from homecoming to prom. Even though I didn't participate that much, I really loved it. It really helped me get out there and socialize and make friends. And I think my favorite is homecoming because being a football player, I think that's the best time for me. Everyone's celebrating and everyone's hyped for the game. And working with a lot of my classmates on our floats, with everyone so happy. I think that's the best part for me.

What are your plans for next year?
I got accepted to every college I signed up for, and got several football offers from five different schools, two being division two, and the rest division three or junior colleges. But the reason I didn't go to those higher ones is because they didn't pay for my whole school, and I didn't want my mother and father paying for it. I ended up choosing the College of Wooster because they paid for my whole college.

I'm planning to study criminal justice and maybe take up more majors, including psychology and computer engineering, and do as much as I can while I'm still young. And definitely training as hard as I can for football, because the main goal is the NFL. I'm trying to be the first Red Cloud student to make it there. If that doesn’t happen, my plan is to come back to Pine Ridge, and maybe become a criminal investigator or be involved in psychology, to help out the youth. I feel like there's so much talent here, especially in sports and academics, but we're just missing a bunch of materials to really put us on that map too.

Being an athlete, I know that scouts for colleges don't come down, unless it’s for basketball, but not everyone's good at basketball. I know so many players that could have been great at football and wrestling and track, but we don't have the materials for it, like the right coaches. Plus many young people go through a lot of mental problems, like me, thinking they're not good enough, thinking they're not going to be able to succeed. And I think being a person from here, experiencing that and talking to the youth who experience that too, I feel like I'd have a good understanding to help them grow and really reach their full potential.

What advice would you give to a Red Cloud student that is just starting high school here?
I would tell them to not be shy and not to be scared. For me, being a freshman, I felt like everyone's opinion mattered. I felt like if I did something wrong, that would be the end of the world. And I felt like I had to go into a certain lane. So once I learned to not be shy and really try to be who I want to be, I felt like that's where I really started growing, and getting good grades, doing better at sports. That's what I think they should do, is just really go out there and take chances.


Red Cloud Graduate Wohpe

Tell us about yourself, where you grew up and how long you've been a Red Cloud student.
I was born in France, so I grew up there for like the first five years of my life. And then I attended another reservation school here on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, but then I transferred to Our Lady of Lourdes for middle school, which is part of Red Cloud’s academic system. And then I came here for high school.

How does it feel to be back, after doing almost your full senior year virtually?
Amazing. It's really heartwarming and great to interact with all of my teachers and all my friends once again. I feel like it's the best way to end this school year. Because it's been really hard virtually and I'm just really happy to be back and able to graduate.

How did you get through the challenges of this year?
Going to distance learning was somewhat relieving at first. I was kind of having a hard time at school, in terms of personal friendships, so I was happy to be going virtual and was doing really well, I think because I thought it would only be temporary. But as it dragged on it took a toll on me. I was getting exhausted, with class workloads and getting all my stuff ready for the whole college process, like scholarships and getting admitted and worrying about what classes I want to take and what I'm going to major in. I had to do that all virtually and it was really painful at the beginning of this year. But being able to be back now, I just feel so much stronger based on everything that the pandemic has put me through.

Now that you're at the end of your Red Cloud experience, what was it like being a student here?
Being a student at Red Cloud really empowered and strengthened me as an individual, inside and outside of the classroom. It's also challenging, which is very significant to what's beyond high school. And I feel like the teachers are very supportive of everything and everyone. It's just really great, and that's why I chose to attend Red Cloud, even though I live an hour and 30 minutes away. A lot of people ask, why don't you choose a school that's closer—but I really believe in Red Cloud’s academic approach, and how they motivate students. Their goal is to really push us to strive for a higher education. And I really believed in that and here I am and I feel like they've helped me so much.

What was the best part of your Red Cloud experience?
The best part of my Red Cloud experience was just being able to learn and laugh and always be around Native American students. There are other schools near our reservation that I know a lot of my friends attend, but I feel like a great thing about Red Cloud is just being around other people who know what it's like being Native and living around here.

And what are you going to miss most about it?
Probably all my Native peers. We're all close now too. And we're all going to take our own journeys. But in 10 years, I imagine myself back here on the reservation, because I really want to help our Indigenous community with my higher education. And I feel that this is home. This is where we all get together and it's empowering to just all live in the same and same community. And I see myself helping my people.

Where are you going to college?
I'm going to the University of Denver and I will be majoring in business or business management. I feel like I can help the tribe with this major. I find that we can grow economically if we have more people who are educated on this topic. I feel like it's what the tribe needs help with, to know how to use their money and where to put it. Because there are a lot of people who are in need.

What advice would you give to a Red Cloud student that is just coming into the school?
My advice is to not be afraid of the workload or the teachers or what they hand out or grades. I feel like it's important to focus on it and to know what you're doing, but don't let it scare you, because it's really important to stay on top of your work and maintain really good grades. And it does really pay off at the end of senior year with colleges looking into your transcripts. Focus on your grades, but don't let it scare you.


Red Cloud Graduate Jetta

Tell us where you grew up and how long you've been a Red Cloud student.
I grew up in the Pine Ridge area, and I've been at Red Cloud since my freshman year.

What was it like to do distance learning for almost your entire senior year, and then come back in April?
It feels really good [to be back]. It's very refreshing to see familiar faces that I've walked these halls with for the past three or four years. And it's just really good to see all of my classmates again. And especially since I know that school is a place where some people can just be themselves, work hard on their schoolwork, and don't have to worry about stresses from the outside world. So it's really good seeing everybody back in school again.

Now that you're at the end of your Red Cloud experience, what was it like being a student here?
I can look back on all the things that I've done and think, wow. I was allowed a lot of opportunities and a lot of space to grow. It's really challenging and it's very intellectually stimulating. It challenges you in a good way to grow and advocate for yourself. It's not easy, but good things don't come easy. I really loved it here.

Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
Hopefully with a doctorate degree in pediatric oncology. Oncology has a very special place in my heart, especially because I lost my mom to cancer when I was four and I have a little brother that actually beat cancer about like a year ago. I decided on pediatric oncology because I went with him to a couple of his appointments and the nurses there were amazing and the doctors were so friendly and I was like, wow, I could really see myself doing this.

What advice would you give to a Red Cloud student just starting school here?
Anything is possible. I used to hide in the bathrooms during lunchtimes because I was so shy and I really didn't know anybody here. And now I have lots of friends here; it's just really like breaking out of your shell. Just really advocate for yourself and communicate with all your teachers, because they're here for you.


Red Cloud Graduate Lyric

Tell us about yourself, and how long you’ve been a Red Cloud student.
I had the unique experience of growing up all over the United States due to my mom's job, but most of my family is based in Pine Ridge, and I’ve been at Red Cloud since sixth grade.

What was it like to do distance learning for almost your entire senior year, and then come back in April?
It feels really great to be back with my classmates. It definitely felt kind of relieving to see everybody back. And it made me feel more welcomed and not alone in my my higher education experience and journey.

What does the future hold for you? Where do you envision yourself in 10 years?
My vision is to complete undergraduate and graduate school. I would like to see myself with a few degrees in biology, psychology, and forensic psychology. I want to work in the criminal justice field as a forensic psychologist.

What advice would you give to a new Red Cloud high school student?
Don’t come into high school with super high expectations of how it's going to be. Don't let the media mold your vision of high school. I think it's good to have expectations of how you want to present yourself and how you want to interact with people. But I think you shouldn't expect the school to just be exactly like how it is in movies and media.

What was the best part of your Red Cloud experience and what will you miss the most after graduation?
The best part of my Red Cloud experience for me was just allowing myself to really become comfortable with myself and knowing that there wasn't going to be judgment from my peers, my teachers or anyone. I think the best part was everyone was so open to just allowing me to be me. I think what I'll miss the most is the connection I have with all of my teachers. Some of them I've known for years, who I met when I was in middle school and they're still teachers here now. And so I think what I'll miss the most is being able to actually see them.


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