Faces in the Crowd: Cecelia White Eagle

Rapid City woman, Cecelia White Eagle, was recently named Statewide Adult Education Student of the Year. She has persevered through many challenges, and in the end, achieved her goal of earning a GED certificate. She is now in her second year in the law enforcement officer program at Western Dakota Technical Institute.

However, it’s not been an easy road navigating through life for White Eagle. She grew up on the Cheyenne River Reservation, the youngest of five kids in her family. Later in life, she found herself on hard times.

“I ended up homeless – a lot,” White Eagle says. “I didn’t have anybody to [help me]. I had my family here, but they couldn’t help me. The person I was with ended up not only emotionally but mentally and physically abusive to me … I knew that I wanted to change, and I knew that I couldn’t live like that anymore.”

White Eagle ended up living with her brother in Rapid City. She studied for her GED certificate and finished at the Career Learning Center of the Black Hills.

“It was light in the dark, because it was a place where I could be grounded – where I found my self – worth that was solid and that was stable. And I knew that if I could just do this, then maybe I could make my life better. I didn’t know how I was going to do it; I didn’t know anything. I just knew that I had to get through today.”

She said those trials and tribulations taught her what kind of a leader and law enforcement officer she wants to be.

“To go through what I went through and to make it out and to be at the very, very bottom and not know where you’re going to sleep, not know we were going to eat, not know where you’re going to shower – it’s hard to get back on your feet … I don’t know how I did it. There was a time in my life that I couldn’t smile, like really smile. And now I realize a couple days ago – I am happy. I’m really genuinely happy now, and I just want to be a light in the dark.”

White Eagle was also named employee of the month at her job at Menards.

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