Defying the Odds: Five Red Cloud Students Earn Gates Scholarships
Growing up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Caine Ghost Bear spent hours every day with his great-grandmother. After losing his father at just 3 years old, she became a major force in Caine’s life, cooking for him and sharing stories about how much she had loved being a nurse. When she passed away during Caine’s sophomore year of high school, he says it nearly “ended his world.” But her spirit inspired Caine to study hard, to remain connected to Lakota culture and language, and to avoid the temptation of drugs and alcohol.
All of that hard work and perseverance paid off. Caine, along with four of his fellow seniors at Red Cloud High School, learned they would receive the Gates Millennium Scholarship—one of the most competitive scholarship programs in the country. Initially funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the program provides a good-through-graduation scholarship to 1,000 minority students to attend the college of their choice without incurring financial debt.
For Caine and other students from Pine Ridge, where the annual per capita income is $7,887 and only 12 percent of the population has earned a college degree, becoming a Gates scholar is truly the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I honestly never thought this would happen to me. It’s a huge blessing from Tȟuŋkášila,” said Caine. “I know my dad is watching over me right now, and so is my great-grandma. They helped me to be strong, and now I know anything is possible with hard work and determination.” (Tȟuŋkášila is a Lakota word meaning Creator or God). With his Gates scholarship, Caine plans to follow in his great-grandmother’s footsteps and pursue a degree in nursing.
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