Western Dakota Technical College held signing day for 82 Build Dakota Scholarship recipients

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Western Dakota Technical College (WDTC) held a signing day for 82 students who received a full-ride Build Dakota Scholarship Thursday and took home some WDTC swag.

The symbolic event awarded a total of $1.7 million in scholarships for fifteen different technical degree programs. Programs include – Automotive Technology, Computer-Aided Design, Computer Science, Construction Technology, Dental Assisting, Diesel Technology, Drafting and Machining Technology, Electrical Trades, Environmental Engineering Technology, HVAC-Refrigeration Technology, Medical Laboratory Technician, Paramedic, Practical Nursing, Registered Nursing, Surgical Technology, and Welding and Fabrication.

Sequence 0100 00 31 06still004“It’s a full-ride scholarship of not just all their tuition and fees, but like for automotive, it’s covering all their tools. For medical, it’s covering their scrubs. So at the time that they leave, it is actually a 100% true debt-free education,” said Andrew Kapelewski, WDTC, Assistant Director of Scholarships. “It’s very specialized knowledge that everybody is learning to contribute to the community as a whole.”

Each of the degree programs is in a high-need career field as identified by the South Dakota Department of Labor to help address the state’s workforce shortages. The Build Dakota Scholarship was created to be a catalyst to help alleviate these shortages.

It was developed in 2015 with a $25 million donation from T. Denny Sanford and a matching contribution from the South Dakota Future Fund. The initial $50 million provided over 1,900 students with the opportunity to graduate debt-free and enter the workforce in South Dakota. In 2020, an additional $20 million was invested to keep the program running and supporting students for another five years.

The Build Dakota Scholarship Fund partners with businesses throughout the state to sponsor many of the scholarship recipients. Business sponsors pay a portion of the cost of the scholarship and gain a skilled employee. Of the WDTC scholarship recipients 45 of the 82 have sponsorship.

Those that are not sponsored have a 99 percent placement rate after graduation.

Black Hills Tire sponsored one of their current employees, Caine Svarstad this year.  This is their second year as a Build Dakota industry partner.

“It seemed like a really amazing way for us to further the industry and to bring quality people into our business or take quality people from our business. And get them into a program that’s going to help them become future automotive technicians,” said Weston Chapman, Owner of Black Hills Tire. “We’ve basically set a goal to do this every year for as long as we can, even if we don’t necessarily need somebody in our business, we want to still sponsor, you know, a student or a kid in the program. We we really believe strongly in this entire industry and we want to just make it as good as we can. ”

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Caine Svarstad

“It’s really getting to the point where you, you can’t just go learn hands on any more. Hands on is super important, but you need to get the fundamentals and the basics. And the program here at Western Dakota Tech gives them those fundamentals and those basics. And we believe strongly in that,” said Tensie Chapman, Owner of Black Hills Tire.

Caine Svarstad has been working on cars and trucks for as long as he can remember and has always had a strong interest in the automotive industry.  He plans to use this debt-free opportunity to attend future schooling after completing the Automotive Technology program at WDTC.

“It shows me that Weston and Tenise, they see something in me to go above and beyond what maybe some other people out there would do. So it’s just a really good opportunity for me. I like it. I’m super excited and yeah, I can’t wait to start,” said Svarstad.

Scholarship recipients are required to maintain a 2.5 GPA, be enrolled in school full time, complete the program on time, and upon graduation must work full time in their field of study for three years in the state of South Dakota. Industry partner awardees must also meet any additional commitments to their business sponsors.

Build Dakota Scholarships are offered at all four of the state’s technical colleges. The annual application period for the scholarship is January 1 – March 31. Students of any age are eligible to apply. Learn more about the Build Dakota Scholarship program here.

Who were the lucky scholarship winners and sponsors?

Automotive Technology:

  • Brendan Diede, Whitewood, SD
  • Quinn Ernst, Lead, SD
  • Caden Parnow, Hettinger, ND
  • Bennett Solay, Rapid City, SD
  • Caine Svarstad, Rapid City, SD

Computer-Aided Design:

  • Jordyn Ferguson, Piedmont, SD
  • Londin Harwood, Sturgis, SD
  • Jakob Schaffer, Nemo, SD

Computer Science:

  • August Bowman, Sturgis, SD
  • Austin Evans, Black Hawk, SD
  • Levi Speers, Rapid City, SD

Construction Technology:

  • Drason Cragi, Spearfish, SD
  • Marcus Hegel, Box Elder, SD
  • Chloe Thome, Rapid City, SD
  • Jonathan Young, Rapid City, SD

Dental Assisting:

  • Kirsten Anderson, Rapid City, SD
  • Maelli Jensen, Rapid City, SD
  • Kaitlin Mitchell, Rapid City, SD
  • Mercedes Starkweather, Piedmont, SD

Drafting and Machining Technology:

  • Jacob Ruffato, Rapid City, SD

Diesel Technology:

  • Caleb DeGarmo, Rapid City, SD
  • Kaleb Entzl, Fredonia, ND
  • Kaeman Hendricks, Rapid City, SD
  • Daniel Knottnerus, Caputa, SD
  • Kody Komes, Union Center, SD
  • Matthew Marrs, Whitewood, SD

Electrical Trades:

  • Justin Doyle, Custer, SD
  • Brock Foster, Sturgis, SD
  • Wyatt Powers, Chamberlain, SD
  • Jace Wetzler, Rapid City, SD
  • Jett Wetzler, Rapid City, SD
  • Renegade Wooden Knife, White River, SD

Environmental Engineering Technician:

  • Vaughn Vargas, Rapid City, SD

HVAC/R Technology:

  • Ren Davis, Rapid City, SD
  • Jantzen Fisher, New Underwood, SD

Medical Laboratory Technician:

  • Danielle Heerts, Sturgis, SD
  • Andi Stone, Kadoka, SD
  • Tayler Weisz, Sturgis, SD


  • Tim Cournoyer, Mission, SD
  • Jazlyn Kleinschmit-Millhouse, Piedmont, SD

Practical Nursing:

  • Autumn Anderson, Rapid City, SD
  • Tristen Anderson, Rushville, NE
  • Kaylie Brandt, New Underwood, SD
  • Nathan Brooks, Box Elder, SD
  • Johanna Corriea, Edgemont, SD
  • Allitney Forkner, Box Elder, SD
  • James Geibel, Box Elder, SD
  • Shyanna Hacker, Rosebud, SD
  • Brooke Hochstetter, Rapid City, SD
  • Tammera Keller, Rapid City, SD
  • Reese Ludwick, Sturgis, SD
  • Leah Luebke, Rapid City, SD
  • Artee McCaskill, Rapid City, SD
  • Tamara Peet, Rapid City, SD
  • Jasmine Plumman, Rapid City, SD
  • Amber Reed, Smithwick, SD
  • Seth Simunek, Hot Springs, SD
  • Joshua Williamson, Hot Springs, SD

Registered Nursing:

  • Kailee Bertch, Belle Fourche, SD
  • Tonya Bloom, Host Springs, SD
  • Jessica Casjens, Philip, SD
  • Kelsey Eckhart, Sturgis, SD
  • Cherise Evans, Rapid City, SD
  • Ariana Ferreira, Rapid City, SD
  • Jordan Hanley, Rapid City, SD
  • Teshia Larsen, Rapid City, SD
  • Tatiana Lazari, Summerset, SD
  • Anna Rosencranz, Summerset, SD
  • Jaci Skillingstad, Summerset, SD
  • Stephanie Winckel, Black Hawk, SD
  • Kayala Wulf, Owanka, SD

Surgical Technology:

  • Emily Grangaard, Rapid City, SD
  • Natahlee Shields, Rapid City, SD
  • Rebecca Shuck, Kadoka, SD
  • Alexis Wylie, Rapid City, SD

Welding and Fabrication:

  • Tanner Brunskill, Murdo, SD
  • Alyssa Dikoff, Rapid City, SD
  • Jeren Ennen, Rapid City, SD
  • Timothy Hamar, Kadoka, SD
  • Avery Jensen, Box Elder, SD
  • Tyler Percy, Deadwood, SD
  • Connor Schmitz, Rapid City, SD

Build Dakota Industry Sponsors:

  • Ballard Gynecology
  • Black Hills Oral Surgery
  • Black Hills Tire
  • Black Hills Urgent Care
  • Community Health Center of the Black Hills
  • Fall River Health Services
  • Fountain Springs Healthcare Center
  • The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society
  • Sanford Health
  • John Deere
  • Grossenburg Implement Inc.
  • Hilt Construction
  • Liberty Superstores
  • Marrs Ranch
  • McKie Ford
  • Meyer Dana Orthodontics
  • Midwestern Mechanical
  • Monument Health
  • Rapid City Medical Center
  • RDO Equipment Co.
  • Reed Repair
  • Philip Health Services
  • Scull Construction
  • South Dakota Community Foundation
Categories: ConnectCenter1-Business, Local News, South Dakota News