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Native American Graduates Honored During Eagle Feather Ceremony

Western Dakota Tech recently hosted an Eagle Feather Ceremony to honor the college's Native American graduates. Eighteen students received blessed eagle feathers during the ceremony, which took place in the college's new Event Center.

Rev. Dr. Gerald Yellowhawk, artist, author, spiritual leader, ordained minister, delivered the invocation and blessing for the graduates during the May 12 event. Whitney Rencountre II, Rapid City's Ateyapi Program Director, speaker, singer and performer, provided encouragement and reflection. Graduate Blayne Kennedy, Eagle Feather Society Club Vice-President, originally from Cheyenne River, announced special presentations. Ann Bolman, Ed.D., Western Dakota Tech President, welcomed everyone to the special event.

"It is a great honor to receive an eagle feather in Native American society," said Kim Bettelyoun, Western Dakota Tech's Eagle Feather Society Club Coordinator and Student Success Coach. "It signifies someone has done something outstanding for themselves, their family, and/or community. We congratulate these graduates for their achievement. Many of these students have made great sacrifices to obtain a degree in higher education."

Eagle Feather Ceremony participating graduates included:

• Valeria Cross, Practical Nursing, Rapid City, S.D.
• Melinda Emery, Welding and Fabrication, Rapid City, S.D.
• Sara Garreau, Practical Nursing, Rapid City, S.D.
• Cristy Hawk, Paramedic, Oglala, S.D.
• Blayne Kennedy, Health Information Management, Rapid City, S.D.
• Christine Kennedy, Library Technician, Rapid City, S.D.
• Amanda Lammers, Dental Assisting, Rapid City, S.D.
• Gerald Mexican, Welding Manufacturing, Rapid City, S.D.
• Nicole Obi, Practical Nursing, Rapid City, S.D.
• Leslie Pond, Dental Assisting, Rapid City, S.D.
• Elizabeth Rojas, Health Information Management, Edgemont, S.D.
• Jayson Running Hawk, Electrical Trades, Rapid City, S.D.
• Rhamie Sixtos, Practical Nursing, Rapid City, S.D.
• Kate Saknikent, Practical Nursing, Rapid City, S.D.
• Moses Traversie, Paramedic, Mission, S.D.
• Marie Tuttle, Medical Assisting, Rapid City, S.D.
• Wyman White Feather, Transportation Technology - Light Duty, Rapid City, S.D.
• Julia Woodard, Dental Assisting, Rapid City, S.D.

Western Dakota Tech's diverse student body sets it apart from other institutions of higher learning in South Dakota. The college's significant Native American enrollment rates have earned it a special Federal designation. Western Dakota Tech is the only college designated as a Native American-Serving Nontribal Institution in the state of South Dakota.

The U.S. Department of Education defines Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions "as an institution of higher education that at the time of application is an eligible institution under section 312(b), has an enrollment of undergraduate students that is not less than 10% Native American students, and is not a tribal college or university."

"We are extremely proud to be the only federally-designated Native American-Serving Nontribal Institution in South Dakota," said Dr. Bolman, Western Dakota Tech President. "This designation, along with our overall student diversity helps us impress upon the public that we are open and welcoming to everyone and that we strive to make a difference."

Dr. Bolman says the college strives to recruit students of all ages, races, and ethnicities. She says those efforts are reflected in the student body population. Nearly 40 percent of Western Dakota Tech's student body is 22 years of age or older, 35 percent are first generation college students, and just over 16 percent are single parents. More than 12 percent of the students are minorities, with 11 percent being Native American.

About Western Dakota Tech

Western Dakota Tech was established in 1968 and is the only technical college that serves the western South Dakota region.

Western Dakota Tech offers programs in a variety of fields, including Business and Computers, Construction and Manufacturing, Energy and Environmental Technologies, Health Sciences, Legal and Public Services, and Transportation Technologies.

More than 86 percent of Western Dakota Tech's most recent graduates are working, continuing their education, or are enlisted in the military.

Western Dakota Tech faculty, staff, and administration focus their efforts on helping students gain the skills and experiences they need to succeed. Through hands-on learning, internships, and industry partnerships, Western Dakota Tech students graduate ready to make a real and immediate contribution to their employers and to their communities.

For information about Western Dakota Tech, call (800) 544-8765 or (605) 718-2565 or send an email to Visit us on the web at

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