Sparking Careers for Native American Students Through Scholarships

Posted on: April 21, 2021

St. Joseph’s Indian School recently awarded $84,350 in spring-semester scholarships to Native American students across the nation, bringing the total awards for the academic year to $176,050. This spring, the school provided 68 scholarships: 16 to alumni, 13 to family members of St. Joseph’s Indian School alumni and 39 to others enrolled in a federally recognized tribe and pursuing higher education.

St. Joseph’s Indian School alumnus Wankiya Rios is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe – Lakota and a second-year Welding student at Mitchell Technical College. He will graduate in May. “It was love at first sight,” he says of the spark he felt at his first exposure to his trade in high school. It’s no wonder as Wankiya’s namesakes are the “thunder beings,” the wakíŋyaŋ-pȟéta whose return to the Black Hills is observed by the Lakota each spring as the season ignites with thunder, lightning and rain.

St. Joseph’s Indian School’s Transition Specialist Krista Lepkowski acknowledges Chamberlain High School with the hands-on start Wankiya received there. “His excitement has only grown in the college years. Whenever I ask him how it is going, he uses the word ‘love’ to describe the experience. We are proud of Wankiya, and he is a great role model for our students.”

He credits the scholarships with supporting him through college life changes, living in a new town and making new friends. He plans to move to Rapid City this summer to find a job and live near his grandmother. “She always puts other people first, so it is on my bucket list to take her to Paris someday,” he says.

The school created the scholarship to benefit Native American students pursuing higher education. With the generosity of donors, St. Joseph’s Indian School has awarded scholarship dollars to Native American students since 1985. 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.