By Virginia Bradshaw,
Countywide & Sun

The below article about CPN tribal member Blakeley Sanchez appeared in the March 24, 2019, edition of the Pottawatomie Countywide & Sun newspaper. It has been reposted here with permission from the editors.

Imagine being a pre-teenage Tecumseh Middle School student speaking before more than 20,000 people in a big Savannah, Georgia, conference center. That was one thing Blakeley Sanchez, now 13 and a Tecumseh eighth grader, did successfully last summer while serving as state president of Junior Beta Club.

“I was scared for her,” the young girl’s mom said. “But she said when she got up there, it wasn’t that bad.”

Blakeley Sanchez is the daughter of Nicole Sanchez, who manages all marketing and social media work for FireLake Discount Foods, and Julio Sanchez, executive director for Shawnee Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club.

Samantha Schweigardt and Blakeley Sanchez, the incoming and outgoing State Jr. Beta presidents.

Beta Club is a national organization that has as its goal promotion of the ideals of academic achievement, character, service and leadership among elementary and secondary school students. Junior and Senior Beta has helped more than 7 million students nationwide, its literature states.

About 60 Tecumseh fourth through eighth graders are members of that school’s Junior Beta Club, of which Blakeley Sanchez was also president from March 2018 through February 2019.

She took office as state Junior Beta president last June and will serve until this June — when another Tecumseh Middle School student, Samantha Schweighardt, will succeed her. The incoming president’s parents are Mike and Carol Schweighardt of Tecumseh.

Nicole Sanchez said both she and her husband are Tecumseh High School alumni.

“We’re super proud of the girls and all their hard work,” said Mrs. Sanchez.

Nicole said she was in Senior Beta Club when she was in high school.

Blakeley Sanchez’s experience appearing before large groups began during the one-day campaign for state Junior Beta president late March 2018 at the Embassy Suites Convention Center in Norman.

It was the club’s state convention. “There were not as many people there as at national convention in Savannah. It was not as scary. A lot of her friends were there,” said Mrs. Sanchez.

“You have a slogan, give a speech and have a campaign. Her slogan was ‘Baking Up Success with Blakeley.’”

She likes to bake and told her listeners “You have to have all the right ingredients, and you have to have all the right ingredients that Beta offers to become a great leader,” her mother said. “She’s always liked to bake; it was something passed down from her grandmother.”

Probably 150 to 200 kids were at the convention, Mrs. Sanchez continued. “The weather was not good that year, so attendance was a little bit down.”

Blakeley Sanchez was running for state president and her opponent was the son of the state sponsor.

“We didn’t think she would win,” Mrs. Sanchez said.

But she did. In doing so, Blakeley Sanchez became the first female president of statewide Junior Beta Club ever.

“She was really thrilled and excited,” said Mrs. Sanchez.

During her one-year term of office, Blakeley Sanchez presided at all the state meetings throughout the year and headed all the planning for this year’s state convention.

“She started planning how she wanted everything to go since January. She was the main one to run the whole convention,” her mother said.

She has also traveled during her term of office. One important trip was to the national Junior Beta convention in Savannah, Georgia, when she appeared before the 20,000 people. She was one of some 10 candidates competing for national president of Junior Beta Club.

“Blakeley did not get the office but had a wonderful experience,” said Nicole Sanchez.

Another big trip was to Greenville, Tennessee, in July to participate in Junior Beta’s national leadership camp where she met all the state officers of the clubs around the country. It was at one of those events that she met one of her very good friends, Hannah Baker of Dallas, state president of the Texas Junior Beta Club.

Baker surprised her last week by attending one of Blakeley Sanchez’s conferences.

She has also traveled elsewhere during her year as president. Other highlights of her year have been “just meeting a whole lot of friends,” said Blakeley Sanchez.

She also heard a talk by nationally known chef Paula Dean at the convention in Savannah.

“She had a great time and learned a lot,” said her mother.

After she leaves office in June, following the national Junior Beta convention, which will be in Oklahoma City this year, Blakeley Sanchez will serve on the Oklahoma Leadership Team for Junior Beta during the year ahead.

She will continue being an active member of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club in Shawnee, the youth group of Tecumseh First Baptist Church, Tecumseh’s FFA program and is a member of both Tecumseh Middle School softball team’s fast-pitch and slow-pitch groups. She is a former member of the school basketball team.

“We are very, very proud of her,” said Mrs. Sanchez.

The Sanchez family also includes two college-age members, one who works for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and the other who is a senior at East Central University in Ada, majoring in education; plus two younger boys, one first and one second grader at Barnard Elementary in Tecumseh.