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Law School Grad named 2017 Distinguished Alumna

Jessica, a St. Joseph’s alumna and law school graduate, accepts her recognition at our 2017 8th grade graduation celebration.

Andy, St. Joseph’s Alumni Liaison, and Mike, St. Joseph’s President, presented Jessica with the Distinguished Alumna Award.

St. Joseph’s Indian School is pleased to announce Jessica (Kennedy) Four Bear, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, has received the 2017 Distinguished Alumna Award. Jessica graduated eighth grade with St. Joseph’s Class of 1994. After a year in St. Joseph’s High School Program, she returned to Eagle Butte to finish high school, where she graduated in 1998.

“A year after I graduated from high school, I had a baby,” said Jessica. “After my daughter got older, I continued my education at Western Dakota Tech from 2006-2008 and received my associates degree in Paralegal Studies. I knew I wanted to own a business and I wanted to help my community. During this time, I kept helping and volunteering wherever I could. I then returned to the reservation and went to Oglala Lakota College from 2008-2012 and graduated with my Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management.”

After earning her degrees, Jessica started a consulting business, writing grants for businesses and new projects on the reservation. She was accepted into the University of South Dakota School of Law in 2014 and graduated On May 6, 2017.

“Becoming a lawyer has taught me to stand up for myself, my people and the youth!” said Jessica. She chose St. Joseph’s Indian School because she struggled with bullies in elementary school.

“It seemed like every single day I was getting bullied or was having an encounter with a bully,” she said. “It was very difficult to focus on school work or try to join any extracurricular activities. From the moment I arrived at St. Joseph’s Indian School, my life was changed forever. I never worried about bullies and was able to be myself and the person I am on the inside. I learned to respect and love myself, I gained confidence and self-esteem.”

But, Jessica acknowledged she had to learn to deal with the bullies, not just avoid them.

“When you’re done with school, you’re never going to get away from bullies. They’re everywhere — in the bank, at the grocery store — it doesn’t matter where you go, they’re going to be there and you have to FACE them. You can’t be scared. You can’t walk with your head down, shy. You have to stand up tall … you are a Native American … you wear your tribe with honor!”

St. Joseph’s helped prepare her to be successful, she said … but so did the bullies.

“I needed those bullies because I needed to overcome them. Nothing will stop me from continuing my dreams! Remember, you don’t have to change yourself when you go back to your reservation … If you go home, I encourage you to not change yourself just to fit in with everyone else. You don’t have to drink, you don’t have to do drugs, and you don’t have to contemplate suicide or get into unhealthy relationships. You don’t have to do that. Stick to what St. Joseph’s taught you.”

St. Joseph’s Indian School, an apostolate of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, partners with Native American children and families to educate for life — mind, body, heart and spirit.

Distinguished Alumnus award winners have:

  • Attended St. Joseph's for at least two years.
  • Made a positive contribution to others, their culture or their community.
  • Participated in activities that have made a difference to the well-being of others.
  • Acted in service to others.

Previous award winners include:


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