Most experts would say education shapes the future for our children.
On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, many adults say it's also the way to create change in their struggling community. The only private school on the Reservation goes above and beyond to nurture and educate children. Red Cloud Indian School is reaching new heights.
She came here to carry on a tradition.
"My mom also went to school here and as soon as I came here I realized I liked it here," says Red Cloud senior Cherella Hughes.
Hughes and her siblings attend the Red Cloud Indian School. Earning a coveted spot at this selective school is often seen as a golden ticket to a college education.
"I want to be a pharmacist so I'll go to school for pre pharmacy and then go to pharmacy school," adds Hughes.
Administrators say nearly 100 percent of the school's seniors graduate and move on to further their education or training.
Hughes adds, "I'm really happy I'm here at this school because the people here really care if you do good or not".
Robert Brave Heart Senior is one of those people. He's worked at the Red Cloud School for more than 25 years.
"I think it's successful because of the three components or what I call the pillars of our institution," says Brave Heart.
Those three pillars include academic excellence meaning students are required to fill their schedules with classes all four year. Spiritual formation, developed by volunteering in the community and Lakota studies.
"Learning about their heritage, history, and so forth is important that our students have a positive identity of who they are as Lakota children that helps them succeed in what they do," says Brave Heart.
Succeeding, High School Principal Jim Matten says, despite having all the odds against them.
"My favorite part is watching 200 high school students come through the front door every day, knowing they've had difficulties the night before. Whatever those environmental issues might be. But they show up every day, and they show up to get an education and they show up because there is hope," says Matten.
Hope that their future will be better than their parents' past.
"I truly believe it's preparing the youth for today, so that they can come back and make things better through their leadership abilities that they'll have, their knowledge, their career, because they do want to make it better," says Matten.
"They teach us values that will carry on for the rest of our lives," says Hughes.
While Red Cloud is recognized for positive change, it's still a reach for most students and families on the reservation. There are only spots for 200 students in the high school. Families must pay 100 dollars per student or 200 dollars for multiple students, per year. And the school itself faces a financial burden.
Red Cloud receives no government subsidies, so more than 97 percent of the budget is raised each year through private donations.
If you want to help out, there are many ways to donate. You can call Darlene Weasel Bear in the Advancement Office at 605 - 867 – 1105, Ext 303.
You can also send a check by mailing it to:
Red Cloud Indian School
100 Mission Drive
Pine Ridge, South Dakota 57770.
Online donations are also accepted, click here to visit Red Cloud's web site for more details.