Katelyn McGovern ‘15

Hometown: Queens, NY
Major: Psychology/Criminal Justice
Study Beyond Experience: Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Pine Ridge, SD

“I love to travel and learn about different cultures. I planned to study abroad, but then I learned about study beyond opportunities here in the United States. I decided it would be just as interesting to study in my own country and learn something new about the people here.”

Instead of sunning herself in Miami during spring break last year, Katelyn McGovern built a ramp to help a disabled man enter and leave his home. And she did it in the third poorest of our nation's 3,143 counties — Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota, home of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

“Just stepping off the plane in South Dakota made me realize I was in a whole different world. These Native Americans live in third-world conditions — they have nothing,” Katelyn explains. “Many of them don’t even have running water and most don’t have jobs.”

Katelyn and her group woke up at 6:00 each morning to head to their work site to make accessibility improvements to a trailer on the reservation. The man living in it had no money to build or buy a ramp, keeping him housebound. His four-year-old granddaughter, who lived with him, enjoyed watching the students work, and the students, in turn, enjoyed watching her play. Toward the end of the week, the students built the little girl a small deck and craft table.

In addition to working on the reservation, Katelyn and her peers experienced an authentic Lakota Powwow and learned about the culture, history and struggles of Native Americans. They also toured South Dakota’s Badlands National Park.

“This trip was life changing. I live in New York City where everything is 10 steps ahead; on the reservation, it’s 100 steps behind,” Katelyn says. “It was good for me to see how other people live.”

Upon graduating, Katelyn plans to earn her Master of Science in Social Work degree and join the NYPD.