Avera Health and South Dakota State University are partnering on a scholarship program for undergraduate American Indian students at SDSU. The Avera Wokini Scholarship is part of a broader Wokini Initiative at the university that offers programming and support to enrolled members of the nine tribal nations in South Dakota interested in gaining access to educational and advancement opportunities. Translated from Lakota, Wokini means “seeking a new beginning.”
This year’s inaugural recipient is Morgan Ducheneaux, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. A freshman from Timber Lake, she intends to major in nursing.
The first year, in 2018, there will be one $5,000 scholarship, and this will build each year with two $5,000 scholarships in 2019, three in 2020, four in 2021, and five scholarships in 2022. Avera will invest $75,000 over five years. Wokini-supported students will be given the resources and access to academic, personal, health and financial wellness knowledge needed to succeed at SDSU and in life after graduation.
Along with the scholarship, recipients will also benefit from experiential learning, internship opportunities and a coordinated mentorship program. Through this mentor network, Avera Wokini scholars will be connected to an Avera Health leader for the purpose of gaining valuable guidance on career opportunities.
“I know that Avera leaders will gain as much or more from this connection than the students themselves, and we very much look forward to these new relationships,” said Avera Health President and CEO Bob Sutton. “This program aligns with Avera’s mission to make a positive impact on the lives and health of persons and communities. We at Avera are honored to collaborate with SDSU on this program.”
“We are extremely pleased that Avera has joined us in providing these scholarships and expanding opportunities for our American Indian students,” said SDSU President Barry Dunn. “Ensuring student access and success have many important aspects. The Avera Wokini Scholarships help provide stable funding and resources to recruit, retain and graduate American Indian students with degrees that will positively impact their lives and their communities.”
In the photo: Morgan Ducheneaux, center, is the first recipient of the Avera Wokini Scholarship, announced Wednesday at the McCrory Gardens Education and Visitor Center. Joining her are, from left: J.R. LaPlante, Avera's director of tribal relations; Bob Sutton, Avera Health president and CEO; Ducheneaux, Barry Dunn, president at South Dakota State University; and Dennis Hedge, provost at South Dakota State.