Six students have been awarded the prestigious Horatio Alger Scholarship at Red Cloud Indian School—twice the number of any school in South Dakota and the most the school has had in a single year. The competitive scholarship supports deserving young people who have overcome challenges in their lives in order to pursue higher education.
“I am very proud and humbled hearing that we received so many recipients for the Horatio Alger this year,” says Red Cloud High School Principal Robin Johnson. “The dedication and hard work from the students, teachers and families inspires us to continue to reach for excellence.”
Red Cloud Indian School is located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the annual per capita income is only $7,887 and six out of ten children live in poverty. Education is a major challenge on the reservation: today only twelve percent of Pine Ridge residents have earned a bachelor’s degree. But at Red Cloud, 95 percent of graduates pursue higher education or post-secondary training. Teachers and administrators say the high-quality curriculum, supportive environment and programs that honor Lakota culture make all the difference.
“I feel that this is a great scholarship for our students because they have faced many challenges and overcome many obstacles to get to where they are now,” says Mike Sunderland, an English teacher at Red Cloud Indian School who works closely with students on college and scholarship applications. “I support students who are committed to attending college and pursuing their goals.”
Since 1984, the Horatio Alger Association has awarded $100 million in scholarships to approximately 20,000 students across the country. The association supports low-income students by granting need-based awards to applicants who have demonstrated integrity, academic potential and a “personal aspiration to make a unique contribution to society.” Each recipient at Red Cloud will receive $6,000 to apply toward his or her college tuition next year.
To earn the scholarship, students wrote several personal essays reflecting on overcoming adversity in their lives, how a person or organization supported and inspired them, and how they will prevent future challenges from holding them back from their dreams. Red Cloud’s six recipients say the applications were demanding, but that they were thrilled when they heard the results.
Red Cloud senior Carrie Beard ‘14, who plans to study chemical engineering at the South Dakota Schools of Mines & Technology next year, says she screamed when she learned she was a Horatio Alger recipient.
“Then I told my mom, who actually started crying—it was so exciting,” she explains. “I knew there was going to be so many people applying, so I wasn’t sure how good of a chance I’d have. But, I knew it would really help send me to college and I knew I had a lot of help from my teachers, who first told me I should apply. I’m so thankful for them.”
Another Red Cloud recipient, Jennifer Brave Heart ‘14, is gearing up to study physics next year at South Dakota State University.
“I was shocked originally and so excited and relieved,” she says. “The first thing I did was tell my mom. She told me how proud of me she was.”
And Genrial Ribitsch ‘14 says she could not believe the news at first.
“I didn’t think it was real when I first read the email. I called my mom over to read it and she was so happy, she started shaking. I went down the stairs to tell my auntie and actually fell down the stairs a little. I was so overwhelmed!”
But the news has sunk in. And now, as Genrial prepares to head off to Kansas University in the fall, she will have the support of a Horatio Alger scholarship behind her.