This Native American Scholarship Recipient Says, “Keep Going”

Kayla McCloskey will graduate in May of 2024 from Black Hills State University (BHSU) with a double major in American Indian Studies and Sociology. She is ready to take on the future. A 2018 graduate of St. Joseph’s Indian School’s High School Program, McCoskey is an eight-time recipient of the school’s scholarship, which was started in 1985 to support Native Americans pursuing higher education.

McCloskey is one of 106 Native American scholars nationwide receiving a total of $129,950 in fall-semester funding. The awards bring the total for the calendar year to a record $224,950. This fall, the school granted awards to 22 St. Joseph’s alums, 12 alum family members and 72 other scholars enrolled in a federally recognized tribe and pursuing higher education.

The path to a college degree was not always on McCloskey’s road map. After high school, she joined the National Guard to support her education but was hurt in basic training.

“The military’s motto is to break you down to build you up stronger than before. It did break me,” she laughs, “and I learned it wasn’t a fit for me. But, it still made me stronger in a different sense,” she said.

COVID-19 also interrupted her plans, explained Krista, St. Joseph’s Indian School Alumni Liaison.

The Lakota have a word, “kihelakayo” which means “keep going”. Kayla’s advice to other young students echoes this expression, “You have to keep going,” she said.

“When you aren’t sure what you want to do, take a year; work a job; and decide what you want to do.”

At present, McCloskey, is studying for midterms. If the double major isn’t enough to keep her busy, she adds three part-time jobs: one in Sustainability, an environmentally focused program for which BHSU is widely recognized; one as a mentor; and a regular shift in the campus cafeteria. “Oh, and I am co-president of Lakota Omniciye,” noted McCloskey. The group seeks to bridge the cultural gaps between non-Native and Native students and raises funds for an annual powwow.

St. Joseph’s Indian School created the scholarship program to benefit Native American students pursuing higher education. Through the generosity of donors, the school has awarded scholarship dollars to Native American students since 1985. Financial need and academic performance are the basis for determining the awards. Applications are due each fall and spring and are awarded based on proof of tribal enrollment, number of applicants and available funds. Also considered are returning scholars who are continuing their education journey.

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

5 thoughts on “This Native American Scholarship Recipient Says, “Keep Going””

  1. Congratulations Kayla! You are right, just persevere and keep going. What a great role model you are to other St. Joseph’s students. Praying for your continued success in your endeavors.

  2. Kayla,
    Congratulations for your great accomplishments… you are one of the inspirational people who have roots in the St.Joseph’s school.

  3. In reading your comments, I’m so impressed by the perseverance and dedication in pursuing education and connecting with your culture. Both of those goals will help you have a better and richer life. All of your tribe will benefit. I hope you will continue your efforts and also encourage others to do the same.

  4. Kayla:

    Congratulations on your scholarships and efforts. You will be a mentor to others in your tribe. Your accomplishments to date are superior and, I’m sure, your education and hard work will pay off for you and your family.

    Best wishes,


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