Siblings Taylor, Austin and McKenzie Cooper interned with Citizen Potawatomi Nation this summer.

The summer of 2017 was the second year that the newly formed Citizen Potawatomi Nation Department of Education coordinated internships throughout the tribe. The number of participants who gained career experience at CPN doubled from last year and this year’s lineup was comprised of students with unique backgrounds and aspirations.

Four who completed internships and fellowships this summer also are former participants in the Potawatomi Leadership Program, a six-week program for young tribal members to learn about CPN history, culture and inner workings.

A 2015 PLP and two-time tribal intern Ivory Hanson transformed her fellowship with the economic development and planning department into a full-time job as an administrative research analyst. Hanson graduated from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa with an economics degree and minors in statistics and American Indian studies. She recently applied for the tribally focused MBA program at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Oklahoma to continue her education.

“Ivory came on board and made a big impression,” CPN Economic Development director Jim Collard, Ph.D., said, after admitting he initially did not want an intern. “I’ve given her several projects and took her to as many meetings as possible. Last year, she did research and made a presentation about getting electric car charging stations at the Grand Casino.”

Katherine Smith, a 2016 PLP and hotel and restaurant management major transferring to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater this fall, worked in several departments at Grand Casino Hotel & Resort during her six-week internship including front desk, housekeeping, banquet and sales.

“Since I am beginning the hotel management program at OSU this fall, I really wanted to get some experience working at an actual hotel,” Smith said. “When I was in the PLP last summer, I had the opportunity to visit the Grand and meet the employees. I wanted to be a part of it and was so excited when I heard I would be working there this summer. I learned so much and now feel confident and prepared for my future career in hotel management.”

Jacki Nadeau gives a presentation during her time as a PLP participant.

Another former PLP, Jacki Nadeau, completed a fellowship in the Indian Child Welfaredepartment after interning last year. She attends Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, Oklahoma and studies family science with emphasis on the family unit. This summer, she was given her own office to work independently on case files while being mentored by ICW supervisor Laurie Clark and FireLodge Children & Family Services director Janet Draper.

“The hands-on approach is the best way to learn about Indian Child Welfare,” Draper said. “Jacki is always willing to take on any task and has assisted with transporting clients, supervising visits and doing home visits. Although this type of work can be frustrating, exhausting and heartbreaking, there are many times it is equally rewarding.”


History education major at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma and 2016 PLP member Matthew Clift interned with tribal youth this summer.

“I thought it would be a valuable opportunity to learn how to coach children when I begin teaching,” he said. “I organized and exercised with the children at the tribal youth program.”

In addition to the four former PLP participants who returned to CPN headquarters in Shawnee this summer, seven other tribal members also completed internships.

St. Gregory’s University psychology student Samantha Banta interned with the tribal youth program, Caleb Payne worked with the accounting department, CPN purchasing director Stacey Bennett completed an internship with the purchasing department, Esther Adkison helped several CPN behavioral health clinicians, and SGU senior and nursing student Jordyn LeClaire worked with tribal elders.

“While she was here, Jordyn learned about patient assessment, patient advocacy, case management, and needs of the elder patient,” said CPN Senior Support Network community health nurse Sheli Hammer. “She was taught to assess vital signs, as well learned other assessment tools. Hopefully, in her time here, she was able to see how multifaceted and multidirectional a nursing career can be.”

Tribal member Katherine Ferguson was the first intern for the language department and her duties included teaching the students at the CPN Child Development Center the Potawatomi language, giving feedback on the online beginner course and helping with language classes at Festival.

“These past six weeks of learning to speak Potawatomi and illustrating the traditional stories have familiarized me, not only with the mechanics of the language, but also with our tribe’s history and teachings,” said Ferguson, who studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. “I have a lot of hope for CPN’s youth, and keeping in mind the great responsibility associated with keeping the language alive, my goal is to help foster an environment that sparks excitement for learning our language.”

SGU English major and tribal member Emily Hidgon has worked at CPN Child Development Center since she graduated high school in 2014, but she added to her duties by interning there this summer. Hidgon created a lesson plan that taught teachers in regards to how to implement new technology into their lesson plans.

“I feel better prepared to be a secondary English teacher now that I have learned how to create a lesson plan, gather its required materials and information, and teach it to a group of students,” Hidgon said. “I love working for the CDC and couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.”

Along with the CPN tribal members who interned this summer, other local students also opted to earn internship credits at tribal headquarters, including siblings Austin, McKenzie and Taylor Cooper. Austin worked in the public information department, Oklahoma Baptist University senior McKenzie interned with the physical therapists at the CPN Wellness Center and recent Texas A&M graduate Taylor worked with tribal youth.

“Throughout my internship, I posted to the social media accounts, marketed the reopening of the golf course and promoted the (FireLake) Fireflight Balloon Festival,” said Austin Cooper, an OBU junior studying business administration and marketing. “The main reason I interned here was the quality experience I knew I would get. I knew coming in that it would be the most beneficial internship around and it still exceeded my expectations.”

In addition, Kris Scott interned with CPN architectural designer Jessica Impson, University of Oklahoma senior Savannah Hurst finished her second trimester working with the public information department, OBU senior Logan Hays worked with tribal youth and mass communication student Abigail Atchley interned with CPN Cultural Heritage Center’s videography department.

“I enjoyed my time immensely at Citizen Potawatomi Nation,” said Atchley, an East Central University senior. “I learned to better my composition and editing and learned so much about the history of the tribe. I count myself lucky to have been employed by such a great tribe.”

To learn more about the education department and CPN internship opportunities, visit or email Mindee Duffell at