A Native American student who found her own path is on her way to graduating from Norfolk High School.
After going to school in Norfolk over the past 3½ years, Yesenia Roubideaux Reifel will get to graduate from Norfolk High School and start at Northeast Community College in the fall.
“I am excited — I never saw this happening,” Roubideaux Reifel said.
Roubideaux Reifel was born and raised on a reservation in South Dakota, the Rosebud Indian Reservation, home to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.
Growing up, Roubideaux Reifel and her family bounced around living in different parts of both South Dakota and Nebraska.
Roubideaux Reifel went to elementary school in South Dakota before going to Macy in Northeast Nebraska for a year and a half. For the rest of fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grade, she went to school in South Dakota. Then in eighth grade Roubideaux Reifel went back and forth between South Dakota and Nebraska.
“I moved around a lot, I never stayed in one place,” Roubideaux Reifel said.
At the beginning of high school, Roubideaux Reifel went to Flandreau boarding school for a couple of weeks before dropping out.
But after a month of being out of high school, Roubideaux Reifel had made the decision to go back to high school, which is how she ended up in the Norfolk Public School system.
“It was pretty rough, but I got back on track,” Roubideaux Reifel said.
Roubideaux Reifel and her five siblings didn't have the ideal mother and father figure around when they were growing up.
Roubideaux Reifel, who is the second oldest out of her siblings, took on a role of taking care of her three younger siblings and making sure they were safe.
“I felt better taking care of my siblings than anybody else. I would rather take care of them than my aunts and uncles,” Roubideaux Reifel said. “In sixth grade my baby sister called me Mom — ever since I was old enough to change diapers, I’ve been changing diapers.”
Roubideaux Reifel liked being there for her family, but it got in the way of getting an education.
“I had to take care of kids and I never wanted to go to school because I was tired, and it was too much,” Roubideaux Reifel said.
Roubideaux Reifel and her younger siblings were able to get away from her mother and move in with their aunt — a place where she was able to move on and go to school.
“I didn’t want to not do anything with my life, and I had to change. So, I started going to school,” Roubideaux Reifel said. “I sort of had to run away to get away from my mom.”
Roubideaux Reifel lives with two brothers, a sister, one niece and her aunt.
Roubideaux Reifel still got to do the things she loved while heading in the right direction with her studies.
“I’ve been good — I didn't get away from taking care of the kids, but I just had to get away to get my mind on track,” Roubideaux Reifel said.
THROUGH THE years at Norfolk High, Roubideaux Reifel grew to enjoy math and psychology class, along with getting to know who she is as a human being.
“Learning about myself and what I can do have been really important to me,” Roubideaux Reifel said.
Not only has she found her place at Norfolk High, but she still gets to clean at home, which she loves.
“I like cleaning. When my friends of my aunt’s need their house clean, I'll volunteer to clean them. I like to keep my house clean,” Roubideaux Reifel said. “I can’t think straight if it’s dirty.”
In the fall, Roubideaux Reifel plans to major in nursing at Northeast Community College. Her dream is to become a traveling nurse, so she can see the world.
"I just want to travel, but I also want to do nursing because that looked interesting to me," Roubideaux Reifel said.
With college looming, Roubideaux Reifel is just happy to see where she is at and what she has accomplished by becoming the first person in her family to graduate high school.
“I’m nervous and anxious because I never saw myself getting this far. I never even pictured myself getting past ninth grade,” Roubideaux Reifel said. “But I am also very excited to be graduating high school.”