Sacred Hoops player, Matilda Anderson, awarded Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship

By Rich Winter

Remember back in December during the Lakota Nation Invitational when St. Francis Indian School senior, Matilda Anderson, was a nominee for the Sacred Hoops Athlete of Character award? Wanted to share a bit of the story of a young lady who just landed, the Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship and has been a lightning rod of positivity for the St. Francis community. (And Arizona)

The story of Matilda Anderson and the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship

With her senior basketball season and graduation quickly approaching, the honors, awards and now scholarships are rolling in for St. Francis Indian School student/athlete Matilda Anderson.

Just prior to the state basketball tournament, Anderson received the Academic All-State Award from the South Dakota High School Activities Association. About ten days later, Anderson received word that she was one of 106  students from across the United States to receive the Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship. That scholarship offers Anderson $40k per year to attend the college of her choice.

“When she was in 7th grade, Matilda’s science teacher, Nicole Collins, asked her to apply for this Scholarship called Jack Kent Cooke. Matilda came home told us about it. We told her to go for it. Nicole helped her get it going,” Candace Metcalf, Matilda’s mother said. 

And so, throughout her high-school years, Anderson found herself with a lot of opportunities most students don’t have. Anderson was part of Amanda Carlow’s 17-U, All Native team this summer, but she is a busy young woman with a summer full of commitments.

“Throughout my high school years I was able to use that scholarship for educational summer programs, basketball camps, supplies I may need, and classes that my school may not have while experiencing a lot of new things,” Anderson recalled.

The high school version of the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship was nice, but it didn’t guarantee that Anderson would be awarded the JKC college scholarship.

Anderson wasn’t sure until an email arrived with the information that would forever change her life.

“There was a time I doubted myself because of certain things,” Anderson said. “This is a big nationwide scholarship, but then once I was emailed the congratulations letter, man, I was so happy. All my worries went out the door.”

Originally, Anderson was going to attend Haskell Indian Nations University to continue playing basketball. Now, with nearly unlimited resources, those plans will likely change.

“On going to HINU, I  knew I was going to not be in debt and actually be around other Natives pursuing an education,” Anderson said. “Now with this scholarship I earned, it opened so many doors for me. HINU is a great school but now that I can afford going to my dream school, it’s even more amazing.”

 The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s prestigious College Scholarship Program recently announced awards to 106 high-achieving high school students with financial need. This year’s winners, who come from high schools across 29 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, will receive up to $40,000 annually for up to four years to study at top colleges and universities, including Stanford, Yale, Princeton, and Harvard.

For parents Candace Metcalf and Bigginz Anderson, the scholarship reinforces what they already knew, that their daughter is bright, smart, thoughtful and deserving of this scholarship.

“So much time reading books, studying, and being a student athlete. She is very special to everyone. Her heart is big,” Metcalf said. “She always wants to help others. She helps tutor her classmates and teammates. Getting this scholarship will open the door to her future. We are so proud of her  and so thankful for those at (St. Francis Indian School and Pine Ridge) that helped Matee with her education.”

For Anderson, receiving the Academic All-State and now Jack Kent Cooke scholarship means more than just her future, it means showing others they can excel academically and athletically no matter where you grow up.

“I  just want kids to know that you can excel being a student athlete. You just have to put the work in, on and off the court,” Anderson said. “Sports isn’t everything - gaining knowledge and furthering your education is just as important.

There were 5,506 Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship applications with Anderson being one of 106 (three in South Dakota) to receive the scholarship.

“You can do whatever you put your mind to. I also am a big believer that there are life lessons being taught in the game of basketball,” Anderson said. “Being involved in both has helped shape me into who I am today. Being one out of 5,506 applicants is unbelievable, but if you believe and work hard, anything is possible.”