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By Sheyenne Lafferty, Oglala Lakota College

Growing up, my parents always taught me that my education is the most important accomplishment in life. My mother never graduated from high school, so she has always pushed my siblings and I to never give up. Now that we are adults and are attending college, my parents are still our motivation.
I did not know what to expect when entering college. I thought it was going to be like high school. It does feel like high school, but with a lot of obstacles, motivation, and money being the biggest.

I attended grade school in Fort Carson, Colorado. My dad was in the military and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. After three deployments to Iraq, my dad decided to retire. With the retirement came the hardest part of our lives. We moved back to my parents’ hometown of Dupree, South Dakota, where all of our family lived, on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservation. Dupree is one of the poorest counties.

We were homeless, living with different family members, and my parents were going through a rough patch in their marriage. School was hard. As young as I was, I was bullied a lot. I never knew why I was bullied, every time it was a different person bullying me. I lived with that paranoia everyday, wondering who next would try to fight with me and why. As much as I wanted to drop out of school or give up on everything, my parents were there to keep me going.

Once I was in high school, I broke out of my shell and started to focus more on my school rather than what people thought about me. I had group of best friends and grew close to them. As the years went on, my friends all started to drop out of school. By the end of my senior year, I was the only one left with the rest of my class. I felt alone, like I had no one. But I continued.

When it came time to look at colleges, everyone in my class had a plan and they were financially set. I had none of that. I had no idea where I wanted to go because I knew my family couldn’t afford my school. I wanted so badly to make my parents proud. I worried that this was going to be one of my biggest failures.

After graduating from high school, I took a break and looked for my first job. That turned out to be a blessing. There I met a wonderful co-worker who influenced me and my sister to attend our local community college, Oglala Lakota College (OLC). She helped us with the whole process and was there for us when we had any little doubt. Because of her, I was able to start my college career. To this day I am still attending the OLC in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. I am now in my junior/senior year working towards my AAS in Information Technology.

During my second semester at OLC, I was awarded the Walmart Scholarship through the American Indian College Fund. With this scholarship, my books and tuition were paid for and I was able to attend my very first AISES Conference, which was offered through the scholarship program.

This scholarship has changed my outlook on college. Knowing that I don’t have to worry about how I am going to pay for college or supplies is the greatest relief I have ever felt. I struggled my first semester because my PELL Grant didn’t cover everything, and I was so stressed that I didn’t think I could finish. Now, I have support and a program that wants to see me and many other Native American students succeed. I am so grateful for this scholarship.

Graduating from high school was such a big accomplishment. Now I am so close to graduating from college. I can’t wait to earn my associate degree so that I can transfer to a university and finish a bachelor’s degree. My education is something that can never be taken from me.

Thank you, American Indian College Fund and WalMart Foundation, for helping me achieve one of the biggest goals in my life.