Darlene Reis

Bay Mills Community College, Brimley, Mich.

Darlene Reis (Chippewa) is a member of the Bay Mills Indian Community. She is working towards an Associate’s Degree in Medical Office Management. After growing up in difficult circumstances in California, Darlene recently moved home to her community in search of a fresh start. She has been reconnecting with her heritage and pursuing the opportunities that will be afforded by a college degree. She maintains a 3.4 GPA and is excited about the future. “For the first time in my life I feel like I can do something positive… I want to be part of our preservation, and I am confident with the right opportunities that I can contribute to our people and our way of life.”

Courtney Bunker

White Earth Tribal & Community College, Mahnomen, Minn.

Courtney Bunker (Chippewa) earned an Associate’s Degree in Human Services from the White Earth Tribal & Community College (Gaawaabaabiganikaag Gabegikendaasowigamig) with a 4.0 GPA. She spent her last semester in the Arctic Exchange Program at Ilisagvik College in Barrow, Alaska, and is now working towards a Bachelor of Social Work degree. Growing up on the White Earth Reservation where she saw many people succumb to their addictions, Courtney knew she wanted a career helping others better their lives. In high school she served as a Boys and Girls Clubs volunteer, assisting youth with Ojibwa language revitalization, homework help, and recreational activities. She has also been a care coordinator for Indian Mental Health Services. “Thank you for funding the Spirit of Sovereignty scholarship. I was honored to be the first recipient at White Earth.”

Ozawa Bineshi Albert

Institute of American Indian Arts, Sante Fe, N.M.

Ozawa Bineshi Albert (Yuchi and Chippewa) is pursuing a degree in Indigenous Liberal Studies with a minor in Performing Arts and Creative Writing. She said the Spirit of Sovereignty scholarship enabled her to better focus on her course work rather than having to find another part-time job. It also allows her to spend more time with her children. “The fact that this scholarship is the Spirit of Sovereignty is especially poignant. It feels like an honor to the work I have contributed to Indigenous communities even prior to returning to school. Migwech (Thank you!)”

Mequon Frechette

College of Menominee Nation, Kashena, Wisc.

Mequon (Mak) Frechette (Menominee) is pursuing a degree in Business Administration while working full time for the Menominee Tribe at Maehnowesekiyah Wellness Center, a drug and alcohol rehab center located on the reservation. Mequon grew up in the reservation community of Keshena, attending the nearby Shawano Community High School where he excelled in football, basketball and baseball. He has also been a mixed martial arts fighter. The Spirit of Sovereignty scholarship is the first support Mequon has received in pursuit of his educational dreams.

Jontay Kahmakoatayo

Institute of American Indian Arts, Sante Fe, N.M.

Jontay Kahm (Plains Cree) is majoring in Studio Arts at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Sante Fe. He is an accomplished fashion designer from the Little Pine First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada. Jontay is developing his dressmaking process, and honing his craftsmanship and conceptual ideas through his classes at IAIA. The Spirit of Sovereignty scholarship has reduced Jontay’s financial stress, enabling him to keep up with his studies and giving him more time in the studio.

Melissa Peone

Spokane Tribal College, Spokane, Wash.

Melissa Peone (Wellpinit) graduated from Spokane Tribal College with an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts from Spokane Tribal College. Melissa works for the Spokane Tribe as a fisheries technologist. She is also a hard-working mother of two who attended school full time while working at the college under the Federal Work-Study Program. Melissa credits her family for helping her establish a strong work ethic.

Nancy White Face

Oglala Lakota College, Kyle, S.D.

Nancy White Face (Oglala Sioux) is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work after earning an Associate’s Degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling in 2012. Nancy has overcome numerous health problems along the way, including brain surgery when she was 16. She hopes to graduate in 2020, after taking time off learning to manage the pain of severe headaches. Nancy was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the most impoverished area in America. Her goal is to use her education to help the younger generation at Pine Ridge overcome their challenges. “My daughter, nieces and nephews are my reasons for continuing my education. Without them looking up to me as one of the positive role models, I believe I would have been just another lost person.”

Charity Valentin

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, Hayward, Wisc.

Charity Valentin (Ojibwe) graduated from Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College with an Associate’s Degree in Science. At LCO, she was vice president of the student body, and earned a 3.5 GPA. Charity is currently studying to be a dental hygienist at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities where she plans to pursue a Master of Science degree in Dental Therapy. In addition, Charity is a STEM mentor at the LCO Boys and Girls Club, and a member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). Charity, whose husband is a tribal police officer, is the mother of three young children.

Betsey Leinonen

Kewenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, Baraga, Mich.

Betsy Leinonen (Chippewa) is pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education with the ultimate goal of earning a Master’s Degree in Special Education. Born and raised on the L’Anse Indian Reservation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Betsey is a full-time student, who also works and is raising three children. Her career goal is to work in the schools in her community where her three children and their peers with special needs attend classes. After overcoming what she terms “the big speed bumps called life,” the most daunting challenge she faced was her own fears of failure. “I had to overcome my thoughts of, ‘Can I do this? Is this possible?’ I was not sure if I was ready to face my fears, but I am failing if I don’t try. The scholarship will help lessen stress over financial issues. With less stress I can concentrate on my studies.”

James White, Jr.

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, Hayward, Wisc.

James White, Jr. (Ojibwe) is pursuing a degree in small business management at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College. HIs long-term goal is to create jobs and work opportunities for people in his Tribe. Better-known in his community as “Jimmy,” White strives to be a role model for the younger generation since there weren’t many strong role models around as he was growing up near the reservation. He is also the founder of SAFE – the Sober Activities For Everyone program that promotes sobriety for teens and adults by holding concerts, lunches, video game competitions, and other activities. James used his Spirit of Sovereignty Scholarship to help buy supplies for SAFE’s community events while also paying some of his school expenses.

John Rouse

Spokane Tribal College, Spokane, Wash.

John Rouse (Spokane) is majoring in business at the Spokane Tribal College. The father of one is a campus leader who is organizing a student cooperative within the college to develop strong community-based support for students’ learning experience at the college. John hopes his education will lead to greater employment opportunities in the future.

Deborah Charge On Him

Oglala Lakota College, Kyle, S.D.

Debbe Charge On Him (Oglala Sioux) is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work. It has been a long and winding road to higher education for this mother of two, grandmother of 11, and great grandmother of two. She earned her GED in 1990 but didn’t seek higher education until 10 years later, enrolling in college to pursue a career in the field chemical dependency. In 2007, Debbe had to put her education on hold in again due to family issues. After experiencing difficulties helping her granddaughter navigate social services, Debbe decided to return to school to study for a bachelor’s degree in social work. Debbe works for her tribe’s community health program in Rapid City, S.D. and is most proud of her 3.5 GPA. “It is a challenge financially but this is what I want to do,” she said. “I love my job but I know it is in my heart to become a social worker.”

Adele White

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, Hayward, Wisc.

Adele White (Ojibwe) is a full-time student with a double major in Accounting and Casino Operations Management. Adele has worked in the gaming industry for nearly 15 years before deciding to pursue higher education at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Community College. Adele’s goal is to put her education and skills to use helping more LCO tribal members move into upper management positions at the casino. Adele used her Spirit of Sovereignty scholarship to pay for books, tuition, and the cost of travelling to and from the campus.

Melissa Besaw

College of Menominee Nation, Kashena, Wisc.

Melissa Besaw (Menominee) earned an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Studies from the College of Menominee Nation, and is pursuing a career in interior design. She followed in the footsteps of her older brother, choosing to attend tribal college because it was close to home, offered a more personal learning environment, and enabled her to become more familiar with her culture and community through Menominee language classes and studies in Native American history and culture. Her involvement on campus included participating in the college’s American Indian Higher Education Conference knowledge bowl team, and finding ways to demonstrate her leadership skills as a team member. “Knowing more of my own language makes me feel more confident in my identify as a Menominee.”

Clarissa Brissette

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, Hayward, Wisc.

Clarissa Brissette (Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa) is pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education, as well as an Ojibwe Language Certificate. Clarissa commutes 90 minutes each way every day from her community on the Red Cliff Reservation near Bayfield, Wisc., to the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation near Hayward. That’s where her daughter attends the Waadookadaading Ojibwe Language Immersion School where Clarissa is also a volunteer. Clarissa is striving to revitalize the Ojibwe culture and language on her reservation, and her education will help Clarissa make that a reality. Clarissa used her Spirit of Sovereignty scholarship funds to lessen the financial burden of traveling 150 miles every day to achieve her educational goals and those of her child.

Joshua Plumage

Aaniiih Nakoda College, Harlem, MT

Joshua Plumage is majoring in environmental science at Aaniih Nakoda College on the Fort Belknap Reservation, home to the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine (Nakoda) tribes. He is an excellent student who moved from Washington to Montana to live with extended family and attend college. Joshua receives no financial aid and is responsible for the entire cost of his education, including tuition, fees, books and living expenses. The Spirit of Sovereignty scholarship is helping him pursue a career in solar energy to benefit Native American communities in the future.

Jonathan Ammesmaki

Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College, Cloquet, MN

Johnathan Ammesmaki grew up on the Fond du Lac Reservation in Northern Minnesota as one of eight children. Now 27 years old, Jonathan and his wife Crystal have two kids and three foster children, and he is a full-time student at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet, Minn. “I enrolled in college right out of high school, but I got ill and couldn’t finish the term,” he said. “Then I joined the military and served for eight years, including in Iraq and Kuwait.”

Jonathan returned to college in the fall of 2015, pursuing an Associate of Arts degree and working on the prerequisites to enter the College of Pharmacy at the University of Minnesota Duluth. “I know I have to work hard in school to balance family life with homework and other responsibilities,” he said. “I will be the first one in my family to have a college degree.”

Charletta Yazzie

Institute of American Indian Arts, Sante Fe, N.M.

Charletta Yazzie (Navajo) is a Diné Artist from Lukachukai, Ariz. Born in Chinle, Ariz., in the Navajo Nation, her clans are To‘aheedliinii (Water Flows Together) and Tachii’nii (Red Running into the Water). She is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in Studio Arts (Painting) from the renowned Institute of American Indian Art in Sante Fe, N.M., and she holds an Associate of Arts degree from Dine College in Tsaile, Ariz.

“Thank you for this opportunity. It was a great honor to receive this award,” Charletta said. “With the help of this scholarship, I have the opportunity to continue in my education and career goals. Without this award, many students could not afford to come back next semester.”

Jacob Thomas Frye

Institute of American Indian Arts, Sante Fe, N.M.

Jacob Thomas Frye (Navajo) is a member of Tesuque Pueblo near Sante Fe, New Mexico. He is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in Studio Arts. The former football all star at Ramah High School would like to be an art teacher. The Spirit of Sovereignty scholarship will help me fulfill my dreams,” said Jacob. “It will help not just me but the community of Tesuque Pueblo. Thank you so much for your support.”

Glenda Goodsell

Sisseston Wahpeton College, Agency Village, S.D.

Glenda Goodsell (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) is pursuing an associate’s degree in science at Sisseton Wahpeton College. Glenda graduated from the Tiospa Zina Tribal School where she played varsity volleyball and was involved in a variety of community and volunteer activities. After graduating from her tribal college, Glenda intends to pursue her Bachelor of Arts degree and wants to go into early childhood education.

The biggest challenge I overcame was being scared I wouldn’t be accepted into college. Now I can ask questions without being afraid and I am much more comfortable in college than I ever was in high school,” she said. “I want to thank you for what you are doing to help Native Americans go to college. You are teaching those who want to go farther in life that life does not stop after high school, and you are helping them follow their dreams.”

Joedes Emerson

Chief Dull Knife College, Lame Deer, MT

Joedes Emerson (Northern Cheyenne, Navajo) is working on an Associate of Arts degree in mathematics and science at Chief Dull Knife College in Lame Deer, Mont. One of 11 children, he was born in Fort Defiance, Ariz. but spent much of his youth in Montana. “I am proud to be both Northern Cheyenne and Navajo,” he said.

After graduating with honors from Window Rock High School in Arizona where he ran track and played football, Joedes took a year off to help his grandmother before pursuing higher education. “When I was in grade school, I loved patterns and puzzles so I automatically took an interest in math,” said Joedes, who is in the college’s rocket club and science internship program. He plans to transfer to a larger university and earn a degree in engineering or aerospace science. “One option I keep in mind is being able to work at NASA someday,” he said. “I want a career where I love what I do. It’s not going to be an easy trail but it will all be worth it in the end. I hope some day that my progress will encourage future generations on my reservation and other reservations.”

Carrie White Antelope

Wind River Tribal College, Fort Washakie, WY

Carrie White Antelope (Northern Arapaho) is the first member of her family to earn a college degree, graduating from Wind River Tribal College in Wyoming with an Associate of Arts in Native American Studies. “My greatest reward is learning to speak the Arapaho language,” she said. “I consider it the most important experience I will ever have.”

The impetus behind Carrie’s pursuit of higher education is her work at Head Start, a federal program that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and families. There she encourages families to continue their education by providing them with the resources they need to enter college. “I found that I had no power in my words,” she explained. “Getting my degree has helped me learn our language, our culture, and to better understand my identity, while also giving me the power behind my words of advice to other families.”

 

 

Kia Timber

Chief Dull Knife College, Lame Deer, MT

Kia Timber (Northern Cheyenne) is pursuing an associate’s degree in science at Chief Dull Knife College in Lame Deer, Mont. where she is the student body president. Kia discovered a talent for mathematics and science in high school but she is also enrolled in language courses at the tribal college. “I was raised in a traditional Northern Cheyenne household, and both of my parents grew up with traditional Cheyenne values and customs,” said Kia, who also serves as a language tutor. Kia plans to continue her studies at a four-year university and is considering a career in engineering or education. She is open to other options, too.

“My love and knowledge for my culture and people is very strong so I may end up taking a different career path to anthropology or Native American studies,” she explained. “Once I complete my education and graduate with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, I will come back home. I want to inspire the community and the youth to continue with their education and know that there are no limits with what we, as Native Americans, are able to do.”

Jerry Racine

Blackfeet Community College, Browning, MT

As an accomplished athlete who is looked up to by the younger members of his community, Jerry Racine (Blackfeet Nation) is able to reach kids with positive messages through sports. Now he wants to do it in the classroom. “I know I can make a difference for the students that I teach,” said Jerry, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education at Blackfeet Community College in Browning, Mont. Jerry excelled at football and wrestling in high school, and went on to play college football in Kansas. Since returning home, he has volunteered extensively in the community working in after-school programs, coaching, mentoring and inspiring kids to achieve. One of Jerry’s goals is to help kids live a healthier lifestyle.

“I want to make a difference in improving the health disparities in our community,” he said. To do that, he needs assistance paying for life’s necessities while attending college, and his Spirit of Sovereignty Scholarship has been very helpful. “At this point in my academic career, the most difficult thing is funding to accomplish my educational goals,” he said. “Education is important but it comes with a cost.”

Samantha Milk

Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, KS

Samantha Milk (Oglala Lakota) graduated Magna Cum Laude from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan. with a two-year degree in Natural Science. She will soon earn her bachelor’s degree in environmental science and currently works part-time for the U.S. Geological Survey as a student trainee in hydrology. As a full-time student and single mother, finances can be challenging, and Samantha particularly appreciates the flexibility of the Spirit of Sovereignty scholarship that allows her to use the funds for housing, childcare and other needs associated with attending college. “I cannot express the amount of gratitude I have for being chosen to receive this honor,” she said. “This proves hard work will pay off, if given time. Pilamaya!! (Thank you)”

Kaylie Trottier

Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, N.D.

Kaylie Trottier (Chippewa) is a second-year student at Sitting Bull College on the Standing Rock Reservation in Fort Yates, N.D. An enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Kaylie is studying Business Administration. Like many of the recipients of a Spirit of Sovereignty Scholarship, Kaylie is a non-traditional student and the mother of two young daughters – 8- year-old Rylie and her sister Paislee, age 3. “I am pursuing higher education now to show my girls how important education is.”