Oglala Lakota/Crow Creek Sioux
Oglala Lakota College
Lynn’s experiences are the embodiment of her Lakota name, “She Helps Her People.” Lynn is a 2010 master's degree graduate of Oglala Lakota College (OLC). Today she is a Lakota language teacher; a health technician for diabetes prevention; and a volunteer at a youth detention center.
Being one of four kids in her family, Lynn grew up on housing assistance as her parents struggled to buy food and gas, living from check to check. Determined to get an education and forge a career so her life would not be a struggle, Lynn researched resources to achieve her goals and honed her work ethic to qualify for them.
Lynn credits her maternal grandparents with establishing expectations for her to do well in school. Lynn followed that advice and was able to earn full scholarships. She strived to maintain a 4.0 GPA throughout her college career to keep eligible for financial aid that was the lifeblood of her education.
“It [receiving scholarships] was really an incentive to keep my grades up, be involved in school, and participate in community service,” she says.
Since the high school she was attending had no advanced placement classes available, Lynn started taking college courses in her junior year. Lynn says she always aspired to be an artist, and followed her grandparents’ encouragement to follow her passion. She earned an associate’s degree in fine art from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Lynn went on for a short time to The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where she studied graphic design while working three jobs to pay for her tuition, room and board. One of Lynn’s jobs was working with children at a head start program, which ignited her interest in education. She decided to return home and consider local and less expensive options for completing her bachelor’s degree. Lynn enrolled at OLC, where she received an associate’s degree in Lakota studies and early childhood education and a bachelor’s degree in Lakota studies.
After spending time in New Mexico, Lynn says she gained perspective about her own culture and what it had to offer. After earning her bachelor’s degree, “I received my master’s of arts in Lakota leadership and management. This set me up to lead programs that are directly impacting Lakota people in my community. I believe that any way that I can help my people is why I am here. For OLC to offer a degree to back my qualifications to do that, in a good way, I feel really blessed.”
The opportunity to be a student in her own community and learn from the perspective of her people is important to Lynn. Lynn is now working with the Rapid City school district to teach Lakota language at the high school level in South Dakota. In addition, she is active with diabetes prevention work, which is important to Lynn for personal reasons. “I feel passionately about it because I have family members who have been affected by diabetes. My grandma died at an early age of 66 because of diabetes and my uncle, who is only a few years older than me, has lost limbs because of the disease. It’s a disease that hits home for me and the community,” Lynn says.
“For the American Indian College Fund to be able to support us is vital to college students here in Rapid City and on the reservation,” she said. “It is a struggle to even go to college, but to be financially capable [of going] is one of the most important things in helping students stay in school and come full circle. We are having professional people in our communities who are becoming teachers, business leaders, and cultural leaders. Just retaining those people [in college] and having them make a positive impact is a great thing.”