Student Profile Header - Sydney S.

Watch Sydney Tell Her Story:

Photo of Sydney at High School graduation

My name is Sydney.

I am an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and reside on the Cheyenne River Reservation located in the heart of South Dakota.

My community is made up of about 4,000 people. The reservation I live on is the largest in the state of South Dakota, and covers two of the poorest counties in South Dakota.

Many people would consider Eagle Butte to be desolate. Eagle Butte is your picturesque reservation small town. I walk down the street and see my people faced with alcoholism, homelessness, and disparity. Although my community struggles, there is positivity that overpowers the negative. Whenever someone is hurting in our community, people come together to help one another in times of crisis.

My community may be very small in size, but we're also very diverse. In most areas of healthcare & education, you will note several people from various ethnic backgrounds. This is not an uncommon sight, as often recruitment has to be obtained from far and near to provide necessary services in our area.

Photo of Sydney as a young child

I come from a family background where very few have attended college and completed successfully. Many of my close friends are from similar situations. Statistically, many from our area will not attend college. Sadly, that number is significantly lower when we speak of those who will actually finish college. From the graduating class alone from May 2014, at the current time only 5 remain in college and 1 in the military. I will be graduating from a class of 50 and am currently ranked 5th. I refuse to become one of those statistics. Over the past few months as I approach our graduation date, I become more challenged with these statistics yet more determined to become a part of the next generation to alter those statistics.

One of the opportunities I am extremely proud of would be representing my community as the White House Tribal Nations Youth Ambassador. In October of 2014, I was selected as my tribe's representative, and then chosen by President Obama to attend the conference. I joined 34 other Native American youth at the conference. We shared knowledge and hardships faced on our reservations and communities. During the three day conference I met with leaders from around the country who had exemplified an impact with Native Americans. Sam McCracken, CEO of Nike N7, spoke to us about not being afraid to pursue your dreams. Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, Director of I.H.S., spoke to me on a relatable level. She grew up three hours away from the place I call home and shared the same personal experiences as I.

Lastly, Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama spoke mountains to our group with an emphasis on the youth. During the conference Vice President Joe Biden states, "Will our youth ambassadors please rise so we may see the future of Indian Country?" When I reminisce this moment, it brings me to tears. The amount of reassurance given in this statement has pushed me to do my best in everything I do. From the moment I shook President Obama's hand and introduced myself, I have wanted to break barriers for myself and Indian Country.

Photo of Sydney in the newspaper

I plan to begin my studies to achieve a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. I will begin my Indian Health Service tenure thereafter and serve my reservation or reservations of great need. I have reviewed the Indian Health Service website and noted the amount of nursing staff needed in so many of the federal and tribal facilities within our country. I will use this as not only a tool, but a guide in knowing where my services will most benefit.

I have been raised on the reservation and am very familiar with the health disparities that exist. Chronic health conditions that require strong patient-centered care with healthcare providers that are committed and familiar with the ongoing cultural practices of the people who reside here is a must. I would like to be a part of the next generation to address these needs. I've witnessed the staffing shortages at the local Indian Health Service facility on our reservation, and considering the isolation of our location complicated by long, dreaded winters, it is easy to understand why not only the recruitment of health care staff is challenging, but the recruitment is minimal.

I've researched our local healthcare needs and have an understanding of disproportionately higher levels of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and accidents experienced by native people and first hand recognition that South Dakota Native Americans live in the poorest countries in America, my passion is to serve and provide holistic care to the people of our ancestry. There is a strong belief that Native Americans serving Native Americans is a critical component in addressing the key healthcare issues that weigh so heavily on our people.

I plan to apply for as many scholarships that are available to me. I will seek financial aid. I also will seek a part-time job to help with costs. If not, I will take out loans as needed to obtain a degree. I don't fear hard work, I fear not succeeding. Thank you for the opportunity and allowing me to apply for this scholarship. If selected, this scholarship would greatly help me achieve my goals.

Sydney's Signature