The partnership will include college preparatory classes and introductory freshmen courses at a new $2.5 million facility that will be built as weather allows. The goal is to offer classes as early as next summer, according to Jack Marsh, executive director of the Freedom Forum’s Al Neuharth Media Center at USD, Freedom Forum vice president and a board member of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.

“USD will hire special faculty, write curriculum, and teach preparatory and college-level courses primarily to Native American students,” Marsh explained. “The Crazy Horse and USD academic partnership will begin as a summer program.”

A $2.5 million donation from Sioux Falls, S.D., philanthropist T. Denny Sanford will pay for construction costs of a new learning center complete with classrooms and a residence hall. He was at the controls of a D-8 bulldozer on Sept. 27 to break ground for the complex. USD officials hope to launch the program when the complex is completed in mid-2010. The operating costs will be paid with interest earnings from a $5 million endowment from Donna “Muffy” Christen and her husband, Paul, of Huron, S.D. Marsh said the Memorial hopes the facility will be fully operational by 2011.

“It’s really another step in a dream coming true,” Crazy Horse Memorial president and chief executive Ruth Ziolkowski said. She said her late husband, sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, envisioned more than the mountain carving, making a university and medical training center for Native Americans part of the nonprofit memorial’s mission.

The couple began awarding scholarships to Native American students in 1978, a program that has since awarded more than $1.2 million. Crazy Horse also has hosted university-accredited classes since 1996.

“The scholarships started the educational component of our overall plan, and now with the residence hall, we can have more young people working here, learning and being productive. And, hopefully, having some fun during the summer,” Ruth Ziolkowski said.

She said Crazy Horse will sponsor two distinctive features in the program: scholarships to qualified Native Americans to pay for tuition and books, and paid student internships. Students living on campus in the residence hall will experience the value of work at the memorial’s visitor complex. Learning objectives will be tied to various positions at the Crazy Horse Welcome Center/Studio complex.

According to Laurie Becvar, dean of the Graduate School and Division of Continuing and Distance Education at The U, students in the summer program can enroll in English, math and American Indian Studies culture classes, and earn from 6 credit hours up to 12 college credits from USD.

“This is part of an endeavor to make real a dream for Native American students that involves higher learning and ultimately, attaining a college degree,” said Becvar. “Through this partnership, Native American students can prepare for college in a number of ways and actually attain a semester of credit transferable to any college or university and applicable to degrees they intend to earn. Part of the program will involve making application to a college or university of their choice.”

While partnerships between tribes and academic institutions aren’t uncommon throughout the United States, according to Becvar, this is a first-of-its-kind approach in South Dakota, where the dream is to establish a college that celebrates the spirit of Crazy Horse.

“The Ziolkowskis want to share the story of Crazy Horse. The curriculum will embrace his prominence as a warrior, his perseverance and his leadership,” Becvar said. “It is our hope that the academic experience will instill in the hearts of students a grand dream and greater vision for themselves.”

The University of South Dakota expects to begin recruiting students for the program in January 2010. While the program is designed with external funding for Native American students, all applicants will be considered for the select number of student positions.

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