In its mission to seek out funding for tribal services, the Office of Self Governance plays an important role in the financial stability needed to keep many of the tribe’s vital programs running. CPN recently welcomed a new Grants and Contracts Coordinator to the office, tribal member Tesia Zientek.

A 2005 graduate of Bethel High School, the Weldfelt and Whitehead descendent went on to attend the University of Notre Dame. Following the completion of her Bachelor’s Degree, she spent two years teaching in Puerto Rico, an experience that stoked her passion for education.

“I am interested in how what happens outside of the classroom affects a student’s learning,” explained Zientek. “I am particularly fascinated in the work being done in nonprofits, after school programs, and internship programs, especially for minority students.”

To further pursue her interest in education, she applied to Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, where she earned her Master’s Degree from the Policy, Organization and Leadership studies program. The focus of her studies there was on Native American education.

“I have always been a fierce advocate for acknowledging the unique aspects of local life,” said Zientek. “For education, this means making sure that every lesson or program is culturally relevant and tailored to the specific students being taught. Reading federal policies that did not pertain to Native children yet applied to them legally continuously reminded me how important it is that local communities are involved in running themselves.”

Her studies on this facet of education lead Zientek back to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, where she recently began working in the Self-Governance Office.

According to Zientek, “I wanted to give back to the community that had given so much to me throughout my life. The constant fight for self-determination and self-governance fits this perspective perfectly and makes everything I did in my job meaningful.”

Her role in the office focuses on researching opportunities for funding of tribal-run programs. Meeting with the departments that serve tribal members, Zientek studies federal policies and legislation in order to keep the office’s grant applications up to date.

“Tesia’s academic background and general experience is such an asset to OSG,” commented Grants Analyst Kasie Nichols. “In her position as a Grants and Contracts Coordinator, she will use her strong research and writing skills on a daily basis as we plan, identify, and fully develop a variety of grant proposals based on the Nation’s priorities. I am just very happy to have Tesia in OSG. It is exciting to train the ‘next generation’!”

This work filters down to Potawatomi all across the U.S., whether the grants fund programs for tribal youth, environmental protection of tribal land, or a host of other issues.

“We advocate for self-governance, we seek funding, and we help to plan and implement programs that ultimately aim to improve the lives of tribal members,” she explained. “This is a constant driver for all of us, and we hope that all of our efforts contribute to progress and fulfillment.”

Over the past few weeks, she has served as a coordinator to the Potawatomi Leadership Program, and also took first place at the 2013 Family Festival Dance Contest.