Alumni Profile: Lisa Yellow Horse '96

posted on June 19, 2012

This profile is the first of an ongoing series about particular Red Cloud alumni, and what they have done since graduating.

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.

I grew up in Oglala, SD and lived in the Loneman School housing because my mother worked there. I attended Loneman School from Pre-Kindergarten through 8th Grade. I was the Salutatorian of my 8th Grade class. As a child my first language spoken was Lakota, but attending school I had to learn English. So after the age of 6, I never spoke Lakota, but I do understand the language very well. I attended Red Cloud from 9th-12th Grades. I graduated in the top five of my class and was on the honor roll all four years of high school. I was also a member of National Honor Society my junior and senior years.

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

After graduation from Red Cloud in the spring of 1996, I attended the University of South Dakota. I stayed for one year and then, due to lack of financial assistance, I decided not to return. During the summer of 1997, I decided to attend United Tribes Technical College, as the result of the encouragement of my best friend (Norma Two Bulls, ’96). I began UTTC in the fall of 1997 and decided I wanted to major in Nursing-LPN. I returned to UTTC the next year for my third semester, and returned home afterwards for Christmas break. Over Christmas, my father became ill and was hospitalized. Also during that time, my sister had a baby girl. So I then decided to take a break from school and stay home to help my father and sister. I stayed home the spring semester and during this time, after talking with my father, I decided that I wanted to be home full-time and take classes at Oglala Lakota College. After I finished my first semester, I decided I wanted to work with computers, so I began taking computer classes for an AAS Business Computers Degree.

In October of 2000, I received a call from then-head of Institutional Relations Tina Merdanian asking if I was interested in a position as the Assistant to the Public Relations Director. I interviewed, was hired, and began working as Tina’s assistant. I continued to work and take classes at OLC. I completed my degree – an AAS in Business Computers – in the spring of 2003. I then decided I wanted to become a teacher. While my ultimate goal was to be a computer teacher, I began taking classes for an AA in Elementary Education. I continued to work at Red Cloud concurrently. Then in the spring of 2006, I completed my AA in Elementary Education. I next began my courses for a Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education. In July of 2007, I applied for the job of Assistant to the President of Red Cloud Indian School and was hired. So I began working in August 2007 as Fr. Peter Klink’s assistant.

Then in the spring of 2010, I had to begin my student teaching for my degree so I had to resign from my position. For my first eight weeks, I was in the 4th grade class with Gretchen Lees, and then the next eight weeks I worked in the Middle School science classroom with Janet Stands. Finishing my student teaching was one of the hardest things I ever accomplished. Before completing my student teaching I was asked by middle school principal Jennifer Sierra if I would interested in working at Red Cloud full-time starting in the fall. So I accepted the 5th grade teaching position. In June of 2010, I received my Bachelors of Science degree in Elementary Education. I have been teaching at Red Cloud since. I received my South Dakota Teaching Certificate in spring of 2011.

3. Please describe what are you currently doing professionally.

I am currently going on my third year as the 5th Grade Teacher at Red Cloud Indian School. I have been enjoying it very much.

4. 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?

Well, Red Cloud taught me responsibility and to be a good person in this world, and that we are capable of accomplishing anything we want to. What I really got from Red Cloud was discipline with learning, without which I would have probably never accomplished so many things in my life. Red Cloud taught me that education was important; that to be successful, education is the key.

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

When I first began my college career, the biggest issue for me was being away from family. While working at Red Cloud and going to classes at OLC, the biggest obstacle was traveling for my classes. I didn’t experience many roadblocks but the few that I did I was able to get through. My final semester while doing my student teaching my father was very ill, and although I wanted to be by his side, he told me I needed to finish my education first. A month before my graduation, my father passed away. This was very devastating for me because he was my biggest inspiration for my accomplishing my dreams.

6. 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 within the next year teaching at Red Cloud as the 5th Grade teacher. After my third year of teaching experience, I will begin my graduate course work, although I am undecided as to where to attend. I will need to see what I can financially afford. I hope to complete my Masters Degree in education with in the next five years. I would like to continue to teach at Red Cloud as long as I am able to. Teaching at Red Cloud has its struggles. With the salary at other local schools being higher, it’s very tempting for me to leave, but I love this place and want to stay here as long as I can. I hope to continue with my education and take classes toward a Doctorate, which is something that I have always wanted to do. A hope I have for myself is to relearn to speak the Lakota language so that I can pass it on to the younger generation. Becoming a Lakota speaker again is one of my greatest aspirations.

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

I mentioned earlier that Red Cloud taught me discipline, responsibility, and realizing that you are able to accomplish anything you put your mind to. They have also taught me respect and generosity and spirituality. Spirituality is a big value that many of us need to understand so we can know what we are able to accomplish, and know that we will make mistakes but we learn from those mistakes and move on.

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

Yes Red Cloud does continue to be a part of my life, I have been working with Red Cloud for almost 12 years. I follow all the school events and I am very proud to be a part of Red Cloud. I have many nieces and nephews who attend Red Cloud.

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

I would like to thank Red Cloud for helping me to accomplish my dreams and making realize we can accomplish anything we want to in life. I would also like to thank Red Cloud for instilling me all the values I needed to pursue my dreams.