South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management, expected 2016
“The Hawkinson Scholarship doesn’t just recognize leaders of peace and justice, but it also empowers an individual to remain true themselves and further their values and actions. Rev. Vincent Hawkinson’s courageous actions set the standard to ‘stand up and speak against oppression and injustices in all forms.’ My belief is every community needs a Rev. Vincent Hawkinson. Through this scholarship, I am empowered to fearlessly address oppression and inequality in my very own community.”
A member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, 29-year-old Vaughn J. Vargas is using his own personal experiences, deep passion for his culture and interest in community involvement to help reduce poverty in Native American communities. To accomplish that, he proposes a mix of innovative solutions that include economic development, legislative policy changes, government-to-government mediation and tribal government reformation.
Vaughn is already a strong leader, encouraging Native Americans to become more engaged within their communities to help eliminate the prejudices that lead to resentment of Natives and non-Natives. He is the Cultural Advisory Coordinator for the Rapid City Police Department and an Oceti Sakowin Community Ambassador, helping enhance relationships between Native American and non-native community members.
“Growing up in South Dakota, I thought all Native Americans were poor. After an internship with the National Science Foundation, I learned that Native American tribes across the nation are at various stages of development. It is just South Dakota tribes that are continuously classified as the poorest counties in the nation. I want to change that.”
One of the ways he is leading by example is through his involvement in the Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) Coalition, previously serving on the Board of Directors. Vaughn is committed to combatting substance abuse through hands-on interactions in the community and he organized a city-wide event that used dancing to promote a healthy way of self-expression.
Drawing from his own experiences, Vaughn has become passionate for empowering youth who are struggling with suicide. When he was 20 years old, he lost his infant son in a tragic accident and contemplated suicide. With the help of friends and the church, he turned his life around and now speaks regularly on suicide awareness.
Vaughn will graduate in 2016 from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology with a major in Industrial Engineering & Engineering Management and a minor in Occupational Safety. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in urban and regional planning at the University of Minnesota. Vaughn’s goals include becoming a Truman Scholar and Udall Foundation Native American Congressional Intern, and using these honors as the platform for future candidacy.