Children First: Red Cloud students aim for Ivy League - KOTA Territory News

Children First: Red Cloud students aim for Ivy League

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Stanford, Duke and Dartmouth - all top level universities that are far away from the poverty of the Pine Ridge Reservation. But increasingly, that's where more and more students from Red Cloud High School are ending up.

"There's a lot of positive and negative aspects of living here. I'm close to my culture," said Elyssa Concha, a Red Cloud High School senior.
 
It's the negative aspects of life on Pine Ridge that Concha leaves behind this fall, as she heads to college in New Mexico.
 
"There's not a lot to do around here for teens, which leads to bad outcomes. A lot of deaths. Recently a young boy in my family passed away," said Concha.
 
But it's at Red Cloud High School that students like Concha are encouraged to reach for a brighter future.
 
"Some of them don't even have their parents raising them. There may be three or four or six families living in a two or three bedroom house," said Nakina Mills, Director of Advancement and former student.

"The major barriers for our students here on the reservation stem from low income,  families don't have enough to make ends meet. There's drug and alcohol problems. For them to come up and come to school everyday with all they have to deal with is a big accomplishment. Those that do make it everyday will succeed," said Roger White Eyes, Instructor of Native Studies.

Students are mentored, taught how to apply for scholarships, and encouraged that education can fix the problems they see around them.
 
"One thing I stress is to get this education, go off the reservation, go to college and then come back and make changes here on the reservation," said White Eyes.
 
"The teachers give a lot of hope, show you different doors, and offer those doors to you," said Colton Sierra, a Red Cloud High School junior.
 
The school has graduated at least 60 students as Gates scholars- sending them to Ivy League universities like Dartmouth.
 
"For a lot of them, it might be their first time going off the reservation. We try to work on building partnership and supports at the university they attend," said Mills.
 
Now a Gates scholarship finalist, Concha sees her future as a journey that will bring her back to where she began.
 
"I don't want to be a statistic I guess. People look a the reservation and think we're a hopeless generation, especially the teens. I want to prove that there's still some of  us who want to move forward," said Concha.
 
School staff say there are five gates scholarship finalists out of this years graduating class. So far, 17 juniors have met the grade requirements to apply for the scholarship next year.

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