KYLE, SOUTH DAKOTA –– With a traditional spin on the mainstream “Pomp and Circumstance,” the graduates of Oglala Lakota College were led into the dance arena by a Lakota honor song for leaders.
The graduation ceremony on the morning of June 24 began with a Lakota prayer, and eagle feathers and plumes were presented to those students who sacrificed and struggled through – with the support of their families – to earn their college degrees. Among the graduates this year was Sunny Clifford from Kyle, who received her bachelor of arts in literature and communication.
Clifford uses her voice to improve the lives of Native American women across the country, often lending it to different causes, including stepping out in protest against the Republican attack on the Violence Against Women Act.
In addition to her diploma, Clifford was honored at the 2012 OLC graduation with the Carolyn M. Reyer award, which is presented annually to the female bachelor’s graduate with the highest grade point average. Clifford’s career GPA is 3.85.
Royal Lost His Blanket-Stone, who received two Associate of Arts degrees, Lakota studies and business, was the recipient of the Jean Smith Award. Jean Smith was a longtime faculty member at OLC who died in the 1990s.
Many of the master’s degrees were awarded in Lakota leadership and management, adding credentials and credibility to the students’ own communities and schools.
Amy Roth, Chandra Spotted Eagle and Iris Goings all received their master’s degrees in Lakota leadership and management with an emphasis in education administration.
John Yellow Bird Steele, Oglala Sioux Tribe president, as well as Newton Cummings, president of the OLC Board of Trustees, welcomed the gathering to the 39th annual graduation.
The keynote speaker was Charles “Chuck” Trimble, who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He is the principal founder of the American Indian Press Association and served as executive director of the National Congress of American Indians from 1972-1978.
Joan Nelson, director of the college’s School of Nursing, was on hand to cap newly graduated nurses Christina Ferguson, Angela Goings, Alyssa Hart, Lynn Janis, Kimberly Johnson, Veronica Rousseau, Tasheena Schreiner, Heather Sierra, Kristy Vahrenkamp, Rachel Valandra and Allison Weston. All of the women received associate’s degrees in nursing.
The Pass Creek Singers from Allen were on hand to provide the honoring song for the graduates and their families, which concluded the ceremony.
In a written statement, OLC President Thomas Shortbull said, “We are proud of the graduates of 2012 and the thousands of former OLC graduates for staying on course and reaching their goal of a college degree, overcoming many obstacles along the way. We thank the students for their determination, we thank the families and communities for their ongoing support, and we thank our many contributors across the country for offering their friendship and support from afar.”
(Contact Karin Eagle at email@example.com)