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Several of the state’s public universities have agreed to take part in a mentoring program with Red Cloud Indian School.

The presidents of South Dakota State University, Black Hills State University and the University of South Dakota plan to sign an agreement with the school that will pair graduating seniors with faculty members.

“Our alum do really well when there’s a community, a network in place,” said Tashina Banks, director of student advancement and alumni support at Red Cloud.

Many of the students head off to college for the first time without ever having really left the reservation, she said.

“It’s finding a community that’s family to them,” she said.

Red Cloud currently has a mentorship program in place with Creighton University; the new program will be modeled after that, Banks said.

“We know it works, and we know it works well,” she said.

Banks said the program is based on two face-to-face contacts between the Red Cloud student and university faculty member.

Once the student has identified that they want to attend a state college, they are paired with a faculty mentor from that university who will keep in contact with the student during his or her senior year.

The students will also visit the faculty member at the university and, in turn, the faculty member will make a trip to Red Cloud to visit the student.

Tim Nichols, dean of Honors College and interim director of diversity enhancement at SDSU, said they look forward to starting the program.

“We know it will take a concerted effort and hard work in developing trusting relationships with students and schools in Indian Country if we’re going to be successful,” he said. “We’re committed to that.”

The university will ask for faculty members to volunteer, he said, and then pair them with students according to goals, background, gender and other considerations.

“Having a good fit between mentor and protege really enhances the mentorship and the outcomes for everybody,” Nichols said.

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The presidents, as well as Board of Regents executive director Jack Warner, were set to visit the Red Cloud campus recently and sign an agreement with the school, but the trip was delayed by inclement weather.

The presidents say they plan to move ahead with the program, which will start in 2012.

Nichols said he hopes the students and faculty members will make contact with each other at least once a month, by email, Skype, the phone or a face-to-face visit.

The time commitment on the part of faculty members will not be an issue, he said.

“This is an institutional commitment from the president on down,” he said. “When we have grass-roots interest and support from the highest levels, we can make it work.”

Banks agreed.

“The end result is a real relationship in place between the student and mentor,” she said. “Hopefully, they’re bringing that education and experience back to the community in some way.”

Contact Kayla Gahagan at 394-8410 or

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