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Student Profile Header - Vaughn V.

Listen to my story...


My name is Vaughn V. and I am a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. I was raised in Rapid City, South Dakota. My son, Caleb, also gets the amazing opportunity to enjoy the Black Hills National Forest.
Vaughn
Vaughn V. is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

I am currently a junior at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSM&T) where I am seeking a baccalaureate in Industrial Engineering. I am formerly a student from Oglala Lakota College (OLC) where I completed much of their Business Administration program before matriculating to SDSM&T.

My career goal is to become a government-to-government mediator regarding environmental threats to tribal land and communities. I also desire to become a facilitator/consultant for tribal governments and businesses to broaden the economy on Indian reservations.

I initially enrolled into Black Hills State University. Unfortunately, I lost my first son, Jasiah, in a tragic accidental death. Due to the nature of the accident, I became traumatized. I suffered grief and extreme depression. The depression went untreated for a considerable amount of time and as a result, I ended up failing my first semester of college and I withdrew from my second semester.
I have since repaired my cumulative grade point average to a 3.79. I have also maintained perfect attendance, aside from missing classes due to academic opportunities. I now work as a case manager that operates under the Access to Recovery grant, which is provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. I work directly with individuals who suffer from addiction, alcoholism, depression, and suicidal thoughts. I also serve as a motivational speaker for various youth addiction recovery groups.

Vaughn outside school
"I am currently a junior at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSM&T) where I am seeking a baccalaureate in Industrial Engineering."

OLC nurtured and blossomed the leadership skills I have today. At the 2013 AIHEC conference, two out of three of my speeches placed in the finals and my humorous speech received first place. However, my informative speech on the topic of suicide received standing ovations after every performance and I have been requested to present that particular speech on numerous occasions.
The accomplishments I have achieved at OLC had not been obtained without opposition. To repair my grade point average, I had to strategically choose classes that would satisfy three separate status sheets. This was extremely difficult and at some points it seemed unachievable. I turned this difficulty to a defining experience by establishing a correlation between environmental studies and economic development to tribal land and communities.

Vaughn V.
"Bold actions are necessary if one desires the slightest chance of lowering the poverty rate on the
Pine Ridge reservation."

I conducted a report on poverty on the Pine Ridge Reservation while I was attending OLC. This report made me realize the devastating statistics from an outside perspective. This was an awakening experiencing for me because I grew up in poverty. To me, these things were just everyday life, nothing out of the usual. I began to wonder how third world poverty exists in one of the leading nations in the world. I also began to wonder why such extreme poverty is so common among American Indian communities across America and Canada. Honestly, the fact that the teen suicide rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation is four times the national average infuriates me because suicide is 100% preventable. In August 2013, Vincent Schilling of Indian Country Today newspaper reported the Oglala Sioux Tribe's unemployment rate is 89%. The alcohol rate and incarceration rate among American Indians in South Dakota is extremely high and we only make up a small portion of the state's population. These are all symptoms of poverty. I believe these problems will persist until the Indian Reservations of South Dakota finally establish an economy that can properly support its people.

Many tribal government positions are held by respected Elders of the community. I do believe events like the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 has left a blanket of historical trauma which suffocates the idea of change and growth to the Pine Ridge reservation. I acknowledge this is a bold statement to make and I do so respectfully. However, bold actions are necessary if one desires the slightest chance of lowering the poverty rate on the Pine Ridge reservation.

Vaughn V.
"I am a single father so as I embark on my academic endeavors I will be heavily reliant upon scholarships and student loans."

As an Industrial Engineer, I will learn how companies in industry operate. This will allow me to better understand how the Pine Ridge reservation can cater to their goals while also mutually benefitting the community. As a facilitator/consultant for tribal government I will be watchful for predatory economic strategies.

My emphasis in environmental studies will provide me insight of environmental threats so the economy on the Pine Ridge reservation can expand, but not at the cost of its precious natural resources. I hope to enroll in the Massachusetts Institute Technology for their Master's degree in City Planning which would instill me with requisite skill sets addressing city design and development, environmental policy and planning, housing, community and economic development.

I am a single father so as I embark on my academic endeavors I will be heavily reliant upon scholarships and student loans. This scholarship will help me financially but it will also provide me with encouragement. I have chosen a life goal that will not be easily obtained. My supporters like the idea of this proposal, but I feel many still question the reality of it. I do not.

As an individual who has personally suffered from symptoms of poverty, I cannot imagine myself pursuing any other goal. At this time I would like to thank the American Indian Education Foundation for allowing me to apply for such a prestigious scholarship and giving me the opportunity to refine my career goal during this letter.


Vaughn's Signature



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