Cheyenne River Youth Project
EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. - Students from the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation who envision a future in college had the opportunity to meet with University of Wisconsin students during the first formal college night on the reservation.
Organized by the Cheyenne River Youth Project, the event brought together college students who devoted their spring break to meeting with students on the reservation and volunteering their time with younger children for a week. It was open to any student in the Cheyenne-Eagle Butte school system.
Students from the 8th grade through sophomore year attended the April 4 event. What the Cheyenne River students heard about college was all positive, with some reality checks thrown into the conversation. The university students reiterated that the university does not want anyone to fail and that with some hard work, college will become easier after the first year.
The UW students described how their goals and dreams were coming true, how they were discovering themselves along the way, and said they enjoyed the opportunity to branch out academically and study subjects that they normally wouldn't be able to study.
''My favorite part of college is that it is making me a better person and I will go back to my community to share what I have learned,'' one student said.
The younger students were told that they should now be preparing for college if they decide to attend. It was not enough or even that important to get straight As in high school to get accepted into college - extracurricular activities and volunteering had as much influence on acceptance as grades, or even more, the college students said.
''They like to see you are well-rounded; they want students that have a passion,'' the college students said.
The guidance counselor would be the student's best friend, they were told, and they should do a lot of research online and apply early in their senior year; but most of all, don't be discouraged.
UW is looking for racial diversity, which means the students from Cheyenne River would have an advantage when applying to that school. And as for finances, the university students said that because the students were from the reservation, there were many scholarships available for them - to the degree that college may not cost them anything.
''Money should not be a reason not to attend college,'' they said. ''If you want to go, you can. There is a way.''
UW, the students said, has a large number of American Indian organizations and some fraternities and sororities on campus that would make the new student feel more welcome.
Freshmen students are required to reside in the dormitories with hundreds of other students, many of whom come from across the country and all over the world. ''It's a massive real world,'' they said.
And when it comes to fun, there are concerts, intramural sports and many other activities on a college campus to keep a student active.
The university students didn't sugarcoat the experience; they said college is hard work.
''You will have hard classes and will say, 'I can't take in all that information, I'm going to explode,' but you do it,'' they said.
But once out of college and working, the interest in continued learning stays with the person, the college students said.
Some of the questions the students asked were about safety, dorm life and whether or not there was welding or agricultural opportunities. UW has a large agricultural school, and one of the students said he would spend all his time there.
''One of the girls was very interested; she got good grades in high school, but she said it was most likely that she wouldn't attend college,'' one of the college students said.
''It breaks my heart, but youthful ambition of hope fades if they don't get encouragement. They must have faith in themselves.''