The Indian University of North America — operating under the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation — is partnering with the University of South Dakota (USD) to help Indigenous high school students prepare for and succeed in college through the 7th Gen Summer Program.
Whitney Rencountre, Indian University’s associate director of enrollment management, explained that the program aims to prepare students for their transition to higher education by letting them live and work at the Indian University of North America campus. Students can gain 12 college credits over the course of the program.
“We bring [students] here to earn 12 college credits before their freshman year, and then develop a cohort of students that are future young Indigenous leaders and give them the tools to succeed and coach them, even after they complete college,” Rencountre told Rapid City Journal.
He shared that Indigenous students have lower graduation rates than any other demographic, so the program is focused on narrowing this gap by teaching time management, work habits, and financial literacy.
Over 70 years ago, the Crazy Horse Memorial was founded to honor all Indigenous people of North America and to serve as a reminder of the importance of embracing diversity, respecting differences, and to banner Native American values.
Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation President and COO Laurie Becvar shared that the 7th Gen program is one of the ways in which the memorial can give back to Native communities and fulfill its commitment to helping students realize their potential.
“We teach our students that no matter where they are, we need them to be represented, representing their families, their communities,” Rencountre said. “You can see a spark in their eye when they start to realize that they can continue to make their family proud even if they leave their community.”
The summer program is unsurprisingly competitive. Only 32 people will be accepted each year. Students from 10 different states and 27 tribal nations make up this year’s group.
“Whatever their dream is, we’re trying to help them attain it. It lifts them out of poverty, literally. Education continues to be the great equalizer,” Becvar said.