Jessica Begeman, a freshman in South Dakota State University’s College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions, has been selected as an Avera Wokini Scholarship recipient. Begeman, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, is from Martin.
Avera Health and South Dakota State University have partnered on a scholarship program for undergraduate American Indian students at SDSU.
“We envision recipients coming from many parts of the region who are dedicated to helping their home communities,” said Leroy “JR” LaPlante, Avera director of tribal relations. “Consistent with Avera’s overall mission and the goals of the Avera American Indian Health Initiative, we hope this partnership with SDSU will produce a health-care workforce that is compassionate about the well-being of individuals and equipped to make an immediate impact in reservation communities.”
The Avera Wokini Scholarship is part of SDSU’s Wokini Initiative 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.”
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.
“By graduating and achieving my aspirations, I can be a role model for others growing up in the same area—showing that we can all overcome the adversity in which we are raised. Along with this, I plan on returning to the Pine Ridge Reservation,” Begeman said. “After graduating college with a degree in pharmacy, my hope is to work for the IHS. This will allow me to be a positive influence in the community while assisting those in need.
“There is a great stigma with growing up on or near the reservation,” she continued. “By succeeding in my academic career, I am not only helping myself but also those who need to see that success is possible. The Avera Wokini Scholarship is the first step for me in this. Not only is my financial burden lessened, but also knowing that I will have the support and mentorship necessary to guide me through my college experience takes a weight off my shoulders as well. The leaders I have come to know and have yet to meet through the Wokini Initiative serve as an example for me to follow. My hope is to live up to the standards they have set by helping others, not only in my future career but as an inspiration as well.”
Her parents, James ’98/’00 M.S. and Jenny ’95 Begeman, are SDSU graduates as is a grandfather, John ’56. Her older brother, Christopher, is working toward a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering.Morgan Ducheneaux, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, was the first recipient. The Timber Lake native is pursuing a degree in nursing.
About the Wokini Initiative
The Wokini Initiative will offer programming and support to enrolled members of the nine tribal nations in South Dakota interested in gaining access to educational and advancement opportunities at South Dakota State University. The initiative will also enhance research and outreach collaborations and programs with tribes, tribal colleges and other tribal organizations in the state. The initiative will align student opportunities to pursue degrees that will impact communities and their tribes while recognizing the importance of family and native culture.
Wokini-supported students will be given the resources and access to academic, personal, health and financial wellness knowledge needed to succeed at South Dakota State University and in life after graduation.
About Avera Health
The Avera Health system has over 18,000 employees and physicians, serving more than 300 locations and 100 communities in a five-state region. Our ministry, our people and our superior value distinguish Avera. We carry on the health care legacy of our sponsors, the Benedictine Sisters of Yankton, S.D., and the Presentation Sisters of Aberdeen, S.D., delivering care in an environment guided by our values of compassion, hospitality and stewardship. For more information about Avera, see our website at avera.org.