Designed to shape the next generation of Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s leaders that live around the world, the Potawatomi Leadership Program welcomes 10 students to spend six weeks in the summer experiencing everything the Tribe and Native American culture offer.
This year’s PLP class stretches from coast to coast; the participants attend colleges from Florida to Washington. Their career goals range from sports journalist to surgeon, and their personalities vary just as widely.
Despite their differences, they share the excitement of learning about the Nation as well as working on their leadership and life skills during their time spent on historic Tribal land. Find out more about the program at plp.potawatomi.org.
Jaclyn Michener — Newton, Iowa; sophomore at University of Northern Iowa
Jaclyn Michener spent her youth as a member of 4-H, much of it as the head of her community’s group. As a middle-level education major, Michener enjoys refining those learned leadership skills to teach children. She also looks forward to absorbing Potawatomi culture and passing it on following the PLP.
“I really became interested in learning the language when my Grandmother, Ella-Louise Christine Blakely Pauley (Bertrand), bought us cassette tapes and a language book when I was very young. I feel this is my most natural start to staying involved with the Tribe. … So helping spread our history and understanding that history is something that very much interests me.”
Katelynn Simpson — Durango, Colorado; sophomore at Fort Lewis College
Katelynn Simpson is grateful for the opportunity to intern with the Tribe after receiving CPN scholarships. As an adventure education major, she plans to work for the National Park Service following graduation, living a life that honors the legacy of her Potawatomi ancestors.
“I always have loved the idea of being one with the earth, like a connection with where I came from and aspire to go. … In a life this short, I want to always remind myself to be where my feet are — meaning living in the moment and know that they can take me up any of the highest mountaintops or lowest valleys.”
Johnathon Tune — Roby, Missouri; freshman at Drury University
Jonathan Tune focuses on compassion and believes trying to understand others’ struggles impacts their lives in a positive way. He previously worked at a recovery center for drug addicts. Right now, he studies nursing and serves as a volunteer firefighter. During his time at the fire department, Tune organized a fundraiser for a family in need.
“A leader is someone who puts the priority of other individuals first. Someone who moves forward to make the future better not only for themselves but for others as well. Support is the goal in leadership. … A leader is someone who can prepare for the worst but make for the best.”
Maria Hrenchir — Atchison, Kansas; sophomore at Haskell Indian Nations University
Maria Hrenchir studies environmental science and recognizes humans’ effect on the earth. She uses her leadership skills developed during high school by participating in Scholars Bowl and being a part of the cross-country team along with her learned confidence to fight to save the land. Hrenchir examines alternate energy sources and ways to maintain the beauty of the continent’s ecological diversity.
“I have always been interested in natural sciences and researching new forms of innovation to improve the planet. I’m passionate about doing what I can to take care of my surroundings. … Since I have always loved nature, I view it as something I must protect and preserve.”
Liam Wrixon — Spokane, Washington; freshman at Spokane Falls Community College
As a quiet person, Liam Wrixon searches for those who keep to themselves but offer a broad, developed skillset. He believes in leading by example, especially when it comes to CPN involvement. Although he traveled the farthest for the PLP, Wrixon has participated in Tribal events since he was young.
“I know how much fun it is to be involved with the Tribe, and the sense of community I have experienced has not been replicated anywhere else. I am hoping that after I graduate from college, I can possibly become a Tribal representative or serve in some other capacity that I learn about and find a passion for during the leadership program.”
Lilly Lewis — Paris, Texas; sophomore at University of Texas at Dallas
As a member of the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, Lilly Lewis learned how to work with others and settle creative differences before heading off to college. Her older brother, Parker, is a PLP alum, and since his participation a few years ago, Lilly has waited patiently for her turn to apply and become a leader.
“One of the most important things I will do for the Tribe in the future is make sure that my children and future family are aware of their heritage. I will help them to understand what it means to be Potawatomi as soon as possible in their lives, and I will help them to understand why they should be so proud of who they are.”
Mickey Loveless II — Bethany, Oklahoma; sophomore at University of Central Oklahoma
While pursuing a bachelor’s in computer science, Mickey Loveless II has taken on leadership tasks as the public relations chair for the University of Central Oklahoma’s Native American Student Association during his freshman year. He considers the possibility of working for the Tribe one day, and Loveless looks forward to strengthening his connection to CPN culture during the program.
“This possibility excites me because I grew up in a nontraditional home and have always wanted to learn more about my Potawatomi heritage. Now that I know more about it, I am excited to keep up with it and stay involved.”
Rachael Sanders — Noble, Oklahoma; sophomore at University of North Texas
Rachael Sanders studies sports journalism and writes for her college’s student newspaper. She expresses gratitude for the education scholarships the Nation provided and wants to find ways to give back. Sanders has held leadership positions in various organizations such as Girl Scouts and her church’s youth group, building her definition of what it means to be an admirable person in power.
“I believe a leader is a person who helps people responsibly figure out how to deal with the situation at hand in the most successful way possible to meet the group’s best interest. A leader is also willing to make the hard decisions that no one else is willing to make.”
Alexandria Smith — Simi Valley, California; sophomore at California Lutheran University
With love for both art and science, Alexandria Smith is a pre-med major with a goal of becoming a surgeon, ideally at a tribal hospital. She enjoys weightlifting and dogs. Smith believes one of her most admirable personality traits is honesty and that she has a “natural instinct to lead.”
“Although a leader should know their limits and not be afraid to ask for help — or give up their leadership for someone with more knowledge on a certain task — part of leading is knowing where to go for help, and making decisions on when to get help or let someone else in the group take over on things they are more versed in.”
Kay-Sha Perkins — Brooksville, Florida; sophomore at Florida State University
Kay-Sha Perkins loves animals and currently studies veterinary sciences. Her ultimate goal is to become a wildlife veterinarian, traveling and working in the field. Although she had limited exposure to Potawatomi culture growing up, Perkins eagerly awaits spending time near CPN headquarters in Oklahoma and expanding her knowledge.
“I was told about how one day I could grow up and spend a summer at the Tribe to learn my history and gain the important lessons I needed to know. … It is an exciting prospect that I will become an active member of the Tribe and be able to come back in the future to contribute my part.”