MISSION, S.D. – Three award-winning students from Sinte Gleska University might contribute to a 590- acre business and residential development on the Rosebud Reservation in south-central South Dakota.
The students’ plan for a youth center recently earned the top award in a national competition forstudents active in the American Indigenous Business Leaders’ group.
Team leader Samantha Plank and fellow students Kristen Thin Elk and Elton Menard submitted the winning plan. It was a proposal for the Keya Wakpala Youth Center, a recreational facility that would feature an indoor waterpark.
Maureece Heinert, department chair for the business management program at Sinte Gleska, was thestudents’ advisor. Marcella Hurley, regional director at the Small Business Development Center in Pierre, also played a key role in shaping the proposal as a coach. Her job duties include teaching a class in business management at Sinte Gleska, a four-year tribal college.
The students’ plan was well researched, and they blended it well into a real-life development plan, Hurley said. “It was not a typical business plan, and the judges recognized that,” she said.
The youth center is designed to be part of a larger residential and business development in Mission that is being planned by the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation, or REDCO. In addition to a swimming pool that would be open year-round, the youth center would include features such as a game room and snack bar. The center would be financed by users and donors, and governed by a nonprofit organization.
The indoor waterpark that would be open to the general public and offer programs such as swim lessons, competitive swim programs, and water aerobics for people of all ages, according to thestudents’ proposal. “The Center will work hand in hand with the Keya Wakpala Project, a 590-acre development site which will be a safe place for all Lakota people and their neighbors who seek a unique community encouraging resilience, health, education, and helpfulness while renewing a culturally meaningful way of life.”
Contact: Marcella Hurley (605) 773-2783 or Marcella.Hurley@usd.edu
The name Keya Wakpala is a reference to the project site near Turtle Creek. The students hope that REDCO will incorporate their suggestions for the youth center into the organization’s overall development plan.
The students worked on the plan for more than a year. It began as a class project and evolved into an entry in the AIBL Business Plan Competition, which was held March 30 at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. Sinte Gleska’s proposal won first place in the university category. Students won $1,000 for their business club, and the school will get a trophy.
Heinert said the students asked a few questions while preparing their proposal but were highly self- motivated. “They just wowed the judges there with their presentation,” she said. “I’m pretty proud ofthis group of students.”
Hurley also contributed significantly to shaping the winning project, said Plank, who works full time and will graduate from college in August.
The South Dakota SBDC network provides business-assistance services around the state. Theorganization’s mission is to help entrepreneurs and existing businesses succeed. Staff members offerconsulting in areas that include business plans and financial projections. The network also provides specialized advice in government contracting, manufacturing and international trade.
Most of the consulting and referral services provided by the network are free, but there is a charge for some specialized programs.
For more information about offices and programs in South Dakota, see www.sdbusinesshelp.com.
Photograph: The picture that accompanies this news release was provided by Sinte Gleska University. Pictured from left to right are advisor Maureece Heinert and students Kristen Thin Elk, Samantha Plank and Elton Menard.
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