CUSTER, S.D. (KEVN) - Sunday afternoon was an emotional yet joyful ceremony for nearly 40 young people in Custer as they celebrated the completion of a summer-long journey at Crazy Horse Memorial.
22 tribes and ten states make up the class of 2018 at the Indian University of North America who spend a full summer preparing for college and life ahead at one of the largest attractions in the Black Hills.
Freshman Catelin Dee says these last few months have been fulfilling.
"I needed that motivation and that faith that i will do good and just to have that in my mind and to have everyone and being surrounded by so many great peers, strong, excellent and academically motivated students," she said.
Dee said she did it with her people in mind.
"Every obstacle I have faced in my life you know trying to endure and curve a path for me to continue on with my education not just to only help my people back from my tribe on the nomination but to overall help our native youth and you know make an impact in the United States," she continued.
Returning student Jacinto Montoya says there is a reason behind the tears.
"On the other side of the fence, seeing them experience is really emotional. That's what it's really all about right here you know it's about seeing how the freshmen are experiencing their summer here so it's just a really unique opportunity to see them as well as us ourselves grow", said Montoya, a returning upperclassman.
Staff says as they send another group of bright young minds into college.
"It's been amazing to be around them and uh, I've loved every moment of it. I'm sad to see them leave but I'm really glad that they're going to be pursuing their dreams at whatever college that they've chosen," said John Little, director of the Indian University at North America Summer Program.
Graduates walked away with 12 credits and some of them, scholarships funded by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.