Student Advocates at AIHEC Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C.

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College student Robin Powless joined College staff and Board of Regents in advocating for renewed funding at the 2019 AIHEC Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C.

Major: Liberal Arts, Ojibwe Certificate

Primary Site: Bad River Outreach

What was your initial reaction to being asked to attend AIHEC Legislative Summit in D.C?

I received a voicemail late one afternoon from Mary Revoy Lopez in TRiO, she asked if I would consider taking a trip to Washington D.C., I don’t remember much more of the message. It was late in the day on a Friday, probably around 4:00p.m., I spent the weekend wondering what the whole situation was about.

I do remember that she said I would have to give a speech of some kind. My thoughts were, “I can’t go to D.C., I don’t like to fly. I can’t miss class, I’ll get behind. I think I was making as many excuses as I could muster that I couldn’t go. But I was excited at the thought of maybe taking the plunge and saying yes.

How did you overcome your initial hesitancy to being asked to attend the AIHEC Legislative Summit in D.C.?

On Monday, I had to go to Lac Courte Oreilles to the College for other reasons. I went to see Mary, she gave me some of the information about the trip and took me to see Jessica Wagner-Schultz in the Advancement Office. Mary talked the whole way, how she thought I was a good candidate to go and what she thought I had to offer. When we got to Jessica’s office, they gave me more information and I thought about all the times I had said no to other important events. I did that many times and missed out on some great things, I decided now is the time and I said yes. Totally out of character for me, I’m generally a shy person and I don’t like talking in public, especially in front of large groups of people.

Who did you meet?

I met some really good people from the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, who really work hard to make sure that things work. The College President, Dr. Russell Swagger, Board of Regents Members Daryl Coons, Jr. and Jim Schlender, Provost Gerry Berg, Chief Business Development Officer Karen Breit and Director of Institutional Advancement Jessica Wagner-Schultz. They all took good care of me and helped me during this trip. We had the great pleasure to shake the hands of the new elected Congresswomen, Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland.

What did you experience?

I haven’t flown in almost 20 years, so that was an experience again and it wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating. I was having a little stress in that regard. It was a good experience for me to witness how the process works in regard to advocacy. We had the opportunity to visit several offices of the representatives of our state, with the purpose of asking for their support in maintaining a substantial amount of funding that provides services for students through the college.

Is there a moment or conversation that was most impactful or meaningful to you?

There really was not one moment, I was impacted by the students in attendance at the conference. I was proud of those young people because they got up and spoke for themselves and for their tribes. It was good to be amongst so many of my people in such a big place.

Is there something that will impact your life going forward?

There is a lot of work that goes with getting an education, on our parts and the people who work to ensure that we are getting that education. The Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College staff really do care about their jobs and care about our education. I think that working in a field where you are helping people to improve their lives is a good thing. I am inspired to do all that I can to reach my goals so that maybe in the future, I’ll be able to do the same.

What advice would you offer students interested in attending conferences like this?

My advice would be to go for it, it was a great experience for me. There are many opportunities out there and it only takes a moment to take advantage of them. You not only represent the College, you represent your tribe and yourself. Take some time out of your life, you never know what might come your way. Yes, I was a little stressed about speaking in public, it ended up not being hard at all, there was support there for me. I hope that young people will take advantage of opportunities that are offered.

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