Native American Scholar Aims for Teaching Certificate

Posted on: February 22, 2024

In an era abuzz about the teacher shortage and how it is affecting schools across South Dakota, one Native American scholarship recipient aims to make a difference by achieving a teaching certificate in the coming year. Her name is Charity Merritt, and she hopes to soon complete her bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education at Sinte Gleska University. An alum of St. Joseph’s Indian School, Merritt is an nine-time recipient of the school’s scholarship, which was started in 1985 to support Native Americans pursuing higher education.

Merritt is one of 106 Native American scholars nationwide receiving a total of $103,264 in spring-semester funding. The awards bring the total for the school year to a record $233,214. This spring, the school granted awards to 22 St. Joseph’s alums, 11 alum family members and 73 other scholars enrolled in a federally recognized tribe and pursuing higher education.

Merritt is approaching 16 years with Crow Creek Headstart in Fort Thompson, S.D., in a career that was sparked just after she graduated from high school. “I was babysitting for my sister, and I liked child care, so pretty soon I began working there,” she explained.

While she enjoyed working with preschool children, Merritt felt the call to work with kindergarten through third-grade students as teacher. As soon as she completes the degree, she will seek teacher certification.

“Being a parent and doing classes is challenging,” she said, but she attributes her ability to do so to a caring partner who picks up the load and to four loving daughters.

Though scholarships aren’t soley for alumni of St. Joseph’s Indian School, Merritt did attend from 1996 to 1998. She has fond memories of a sleepover for the girls hosted in the skyway between the school and administrative offices. Laughing, she recalled, “We dog-piled Mary Jane Alexander,” then principal of the school.

Other St. Joseph’s Indian School alumni on track to complete courses of study this May or June include: Kayla McClosky, receiving Bachelor of Science degrees in both American Indian Studies and Sociology from Black Hills State University in Spearfish, S.D.; Tamra Merrit receiving an Associate from Mitchell Technical College in the Medical Office Professional Program; Cody Catches receiving an Associate in Tribal Law from Oglala Lakota College; and Tanner Veo graduating from United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck, N.D., with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Research.

St. Joseph’s Indian School created the scholarship program to benefit Native American students pursuing higher education. Through the generosity of donors, the school has awarded scholarship dollars to Native Americans for nearly 40 years. Financial need and academic performance are the basis for determining the awards. Applications are due each fall and spring and are awarded based on proof of tribal enrollment, number of applicants and available funds. Also considered are returning scholars who are continuing their education journey.