The 2021 Potawatomi Leadership Program participants spent the summer learning about the Citizen Potawatomi Nation virtually due to the pandemic. The 2021 class
consisted of 23 members, and the Hownikan asked every participant some introductory questions. Meet 11 of them now:

Hannah Nystrom | Hometown: Topeka, Kansas

With a long list of hobbies and interests, Hannah Nystrom most defines herself by her love of writing. As a junior at the University of Kansas, she double majors in both journalism and environmental science. Learning enough about her family history and culture to be able to write about it and pass it on drew her to the PLP. As a language enthusiast, Nystrom’s favorite part of the program was learning Potawatomi.

She is also a certified scuba diver and played on her high school and collegiate women’s soccer teams. Most of her leadership skills came as captain during her junior and senior years of high school.

“I learned I liked being vocal and having my voice heard as well as listening to others and making sure their voices are heard as well,” Nystrom said.

Jenan Cameranesi | Hometown: Palm Springs, California

Jenan Cameranesi focuses on art and art history as a sophomore at Yale University. As a freshman, she acted as assistant stage manager for a couple of small theater department productions, which helped her define what she considers leadership attributes.

“I tend to think of those who work directly within the community, those who work to not only lead but facilitate and collaborate,” she said.

The Beaubien and Pearce family descendant applied to the program to learn more about her mother’s family, especially her great-grandfather. Her passion for artistic expression comes through in her favorite part of the PLP — craft classes, especially beading.

Jozelle Arenz | Hometown: Woodridge, Illinois

Jozie Arenz applied to the PLP to expand on her knowledge of her Potawatomi heritage. The Hardin family descendant enjoyed the cultural teachings and felt connected to traditional medicines as a biology major at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She hopes to attend medical school and serve Native Americans through health services, in particular, reproductive care.

Whether she is leading the trombone section of her high school marching band, interning with the Morton Arboretum or facilitating meditation classes, Arenz shows leadership through passion.

“Passion is contagious, and when you are led by someone who is passionate about a cause, activity, or skill, you become passionate too,” she said.

Maile Morrell | Hometown: Ewa Beach, Hawaii

Maile Morell showed herself as a leader throughout high school as the secretary of student council and involvement with two student body publications. The Higbee descendant’s experiences showed her leadership comes down to grit and self-confidence.

“Grit reveals not only one’s perseverance, but also an individual’s dedication, resilience, and courage. Self-confidence is another quality I associate with leaders because one needs to trust his/her own judgment and direction before one can expect the same from others,” she said.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa sophomore studies psychology, dances ballet, enjoys writing letters and hopes to visit Japan or Korea. She enjoyed traditional crafts, especially beading, during the program.

Mary Hrenchir | Hometown: Paola, Kansas

Mary Hrenchir remembers traveling to Tribal lands in Oklahoma to attend the Family Reunion Festival every summer as a child. She applied for the PLP to interact more and find a spot for herself that aligns with her skills, as both a leader and way to give back to CPN.

“I think the most important quality in a leader is that they are not afraid to stand up for the people that they care about,” she said

As a junior at the University of Kansas, the Schwartz family descendant studies business analytics. Hrenchir also plays the piano, draws, plays Dungeons and Dragons and watches cartoons. She enjoyed learning traditional Potawatomi songs and the history of the Tribe during the program.

Matthew Carney | Hometown: Lacey, Washington

Although his father and aunt are both CPN legislators, Matthew Carney felt the PLP presented an opportunity to explore his identity and bridge the distance between Washington and CPN headquarters in Oklahoma.

“Seeing the amount of pride and respect (my dad and aunt) have for their Native American roots has been really inspiring for me,” he said.

Carney serves as a leader at his part-time job, using his communications skills and adaptability to succeed. The Juneau family descendant is a freshman at the University of Washington, Seattle, studying finance and information systems. He enjoyed learning about the Tribe’s enterprises and businesses.

Matt Dillon Higdon | Hometown: Tecumseh, Oklahoma

Mueller family descendant Matt Dillon Higdon attended PLP to learn more about the Tribe’s history and traditional stories. As a junior studying history at Oklahoma Baptist University, he knows the importance of their preservation. Higdon believes leaders work to prepare and serve others.

“Even though I do not know where my professional life will take me after college. I know that no matter where I end up I will want to mentor the next generation and lead others to better themselves and their community,” he said.

Higdon participates in track and field, helps lead sports camps and enjoys archery. One of his favorite program activities was moccasin making.

MaryKate Godinez | Hometown: Orland Park, Illinois

MaryKate Godinez is a Bourassa family descendant and a senior at Governors State University in University Park, Illinois. She studies psychology and names empathy as one of the most important qualities of a good leader — more important than passion and courage.

“Leaders have to make decisions that impact groups of people, not just a select few,” she said. “In order to ensure the benefits of a decision outweigh the risks, leaders must have the ability to put themselves in others’ shoes.”

Godinez applied to the PLP to learn the Potawatomi language and traditional ecological knowledge as well as connect with Tribal members her age. She also enjoys Beatles trivia and K-pop music.

Payton Godinez | Hometown: Orland Park, Illinois

As a senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Payton Godinez studies web design. She enjoys puzzles, logic problems and escapes room, always looking for a way to bring all of the pieces together, whether on the web or in real life. Godinez also enjoys boba tea, K-pop music, cartoons and video games.

She applied for the PLP to take a bigger role in the Potawatomi community and learn more to keep her heritage alive. The Bourassa family descendant believes leadership and confidence go together.

“Without self-confidence, it’s hard to motivate others and to have them believe in you,” she said. “Most importantly, I would say that a leader has to work with those that are following them.”

Kevin Huberty | Hometown: Elk River, Minnesota

Kevin Huberty defines himself as friendly, quiet, yet interesting. He uses leadership while at his job at a car dealership, when he brings together communication, delegation and problem solving.

“A strong leader needs to have integrity because if you can’t exhibit your honesty and strong morals nobody will trust you as a person,” he said.

This fall, he begins his junior year at North Dakota State University studying finance. He applied to the PLP to get to know Tribal members his own age from across the country and enjoyed learning the history of the Nation, in particular.

Huberty also enjoys outdoor activities, including hunting and fishing, sports and video games.

Grant Benson | Hometown: Edmond, Oklahoma

Grant Benson begins his sophomore year at the University of Oklahoma this fall, studying industrial/systems engineering. The Milot family descendant plans to attend medical school and become a cardiologist or general surgeon, or work toward his MBA. He wants to give back to the Native community as a doctor in tribal health care, a goal inspired by his views on leadership.

“Leadership is a way of life,” Benson said. “It is a way of living so that everything you do sets an example to follow, that is, one of humility … integrity, determination, and, most of all, love.”

He applied for the PLP to “dig up” his roots, meet other Tribal members and learn about Nishnabé culture. Benson loves music and can play the guitar and piano. He also enjoys reading and sports.

Check out their final projects and portfolios at Find out more about the program at and visit the CPN Department of Education at