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Engineering a Better Tomorrow: Hardrocker Ally Association

All successful leaders can point back to someone in their life who helped them get where they are

Maybe it was a teacher in elementary school who inspired big dreams, a friend who reached out in a time of dire need, a workplace mentor who empowered a paradigm shift, or even a good samaritan who appeared out of the blue to help avert disaster.

The idea that mentorship and outreach make a difference in the future lives of marginalized youth is at the core of a new effort undertaken by a student-run organization called the Hardrocker Ally Association.

The group, formed by Mines athletes and students, is a volunteer effort aimed at community outreach, networking, and advocacy. The Hardrocker Ally Association also helps Mines meet industry demand for well-rounded individuals who thrive in multidisciplinary teams required for success in the modern global marketplace.

Building Relationships

Hardrocker Ally Association was formed in the Fall of 2020, following the nationwide protests around the killing of George Floyd. In the midst of this controversy, the group saw a need to create understanding, not only on campus, but in the Rapid City community. They reached out to leadership at the Rapid City Police Department (RCPD) to open dialogue. The subsequent meetings with the RCPD were illuminating for all involved.  This video captures the story best.

“When the students and the school wanted to reach out and have a genuine conversation, I thought, what better opportunity to connect with some folks in our community that have good hearts and really want to make a difference,” says Don Hedrick, Rapid City police chief.

“We learned that, when you can get people in a room, when you can get people together, you can have great dialogue, you can have great conversations, and you can begin to build a middle ground,” says Kyante Christian, Mines senior and one of the founding members of the Hardrocker Ally Association.  Learn more about Kyante here.

“The police, we can’t solve these issues in our community on our own; we need help from the community, and to do that, we need trust from the community, and the only way to build that trust is to have a relationship,” says Tim Doyle (ChE 94) lieutenant with the RCPD.

The dialogue and networking between students and police officers opened doors for new community collaborations. With the assistance of BayLee Dansby, the youth and family navigator at RCPD, members of the Hardrocker Ally Association began an outreach effort alongside police officers with a group of at-risk youth in Rapid City.

“I think everybody needs to realize that we’re all working on the same goal,” says Dansby. “The sooner we start working together to achieve that goal, the better outcome we will have.”

The association is also undertaking a new effort to help homeless individuals in the community. In the spring of 2022, the group joined with Mines football players to put together 150 paper bags with snacks and hygiene items for distribution to those most in need in Rapid City.

 

Becoming Mentors

In the 2021-2022 school year, the Hardrocker Ally Association evolved from dialogue to include community action. The group joined with the Rapid City Police Department in a special youth outreach program aimed at changing the trajectory of marginalized young people in Rapid City.

“By having conversations on campus and partnering with the Rapid City Police Department and their youth outreach team, we’re making sure we’re in the community advocating for those who can’t until they have the ability do so for themselves,” says Christian.

Hardrocker ally flag football The group established a tutoring program to assist youth with their studies. They also began unique mentorship opportunities like a cooking class and social time with young people. They also continued their ongoing dialogue with the RCPD and began a ride along program that allowed students a first-hand look at the life of a police officer. Mines football players also joined a flag football program with young people at North Middle School established by the RCPD. The youth also attended a spring scrimmage game at O’Harra Stadium as special guests.

“Relationships are really important. When you see people from communities like yours, and they are successful and they are making it work, that gives you the confidence to make that leap of faith to take on the challenge of an engineering school and get a degree. There are a lot of opportunities to get into the community and do things with the kids and the RCPD, you just need to go find them,” says Christian.

“Being more engaged with the community and with the kids has been a tremendous learning opportunity for us at Mines.”

In the coming year, the association is working on a new outreach program for homeless members of the community. For students at Mines, the group plans to bring in representatives from top companies from the state and nation to talk about the needs of the current workplace and the types of STEM professionals they are looking to hire. Christian says this process can help illuminate the need to graduate students who can thrive in the current global marketplace.

“The best thing you can do for your legacy is leave a place better than you found it,” says Christian. “The Hardrocker Ally Association is going to be a platform for people to help shape our community for the better.”

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About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 97 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $68,685. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Contact: Mike Ray, 605-394-6082, mike.ray@sdsmt.edu

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