BHSU student honored by White House, 'Champions of Change' program

Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, May 26, 2015/Categories: 2015

Black Hills State University student Eriq Swiftwater was one of 12 students across the United States honored during The White House&rsquos "Champion of Change" program this week.

The "Champions of Change" program features individuals doing extraordinary things to inspire and empower their communities. The program is part of National Foster Care Month.

Swiftwater took part in a panel discussion with other "Champion of Change" honorees on the foster care system. He shared his inspirations and suggestions on how to help youth in the foster care system, not only in South Dakota, but across the United States.  

"My inspiration is the struggle. I get my motivation knowing that my siblings and I were separated at one period of time. There was nothing worse in my life than not being around my family," Swiftwater said during his panel discussion. "That&rsquos what drives me to be a better person and a better family man."

Swiftwater is studying business administration at BHSU and plays for the Yellow Jacket football team. Swiftwater is a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. While in high school, he served as the class president, set school athletic records in football, track and basketball, and was the class salutatorian.

Swiftwater gives back to his community as much as possible, and one day hopes to open a center similar to a Boys and Girls Club in Oelrichs. Swiftwater is currently involved in the South Dakota GEAR UP Program, whose goal is to increase the number of American Indian students that achieve success in higher education.

Through the GEAR UP program Swiftwater shares his story of struggle and triumph with South Dakota youth. During the panel discussion, he talked about how social media has provided an avenue for students to reach out to him for help.

"A lot of kids message me for help or advice," Swiftwater said. "A lot of students are taught how to dribble a basketball, but not taught how to fill out a scholarship. They look at me as a role model."
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