Each summer, Citizen Potawatomi Nation selects 10 promising Tribal youths who have finished high school or their freshman year of college for the Potawatomi Leadership Program.The 2018 class traveled from across thecountry and arrived June 15.
PLP adviser and Department of Education Director Tesia Zientek welcomed and introduced them to their counselor, Randy Bazhaw. The two began planning the interns’ experience inApril. While at Tribal headquarters, the participants visit each enterprise, service and government office while learning cultural fundamentals and history.
This year, Bazhaw strived to structure the six-week schedule by collectively organizing the various portions of Tribal government, culture and enterprises as opposed to sporadically spreading them out — all while considering leaders’ busy calendars. He hopes revamping the schedule gives the PLP students a deeper understanding of how the Tribal departments work together.
Each week has a theme. The first week, “Defining the CPN,” includes moccasin making, language classes and a tour of the CPN Eagle Aviary. Fundamental departments such as the Office of Self-Governance and Tribal Court system also meet with the students. Zientek and Bazhaw placed what they considered launch pad sessions in the first week to build a foundation for the rest of the summer.
Week two focuses on government services such as the CPN Tag Agency, the Office of Environmental Health and Information Technology Department. Tribal benefits comprise week three, including Workforce & Social Services, the Education Department and the Women, Infants and Children program. FireLake Golf Course, Grand Casino Hotel & Resort and FireLake Discount Foods are a few of the enterprises featured during week four.
“It’s the same idea as any other academic subject,” Zientek said. “Curriculum is what you teach and what order you teach it in. By reordering it, I really think it has the potential to completely change a student’s experience.”
PLP participants also complete a project with Tribal significance throughout the summer. It can be something culturally based, strictly business related or anything in between. Past projects include a plan for a Tribal coffee shop,writing a new honor song in Potawatomi and a CPN recycling program.
Zientek and Bazhaw noticed some department’s head and their employees answered more questions and spent more time with interns while they worked on the projects. The schedule now includes additional sessions in information technology, accounting, self-governance and public information in an attempt to make the projects stronger.
“These are things that should be carried to their lives post-PLP. This is project development and project management— things that they should know how tothink through,” Zientek said.
Also new in 2018, students will meet with the election committee and witness the electoral process during Family Reunion Festival. As the final piece of the puzzle, this summer’s participants will write letters to the next class about their experiences. Zientek will file them away and bring them out as part of the 2019 introduction.
Zientek anticipates evolving curriculum. As one of the advisers, she thinks of new challenges and more ways to encourage involvement.
“There’s so much to do with this program, and I’m invested very heavily in figuring out how we can make it better each year,” Zientek said. “I don’t want it to ever get to a point where there’s not anything that we can do to improve it.”
Read more about the PLP at plp.potawatomi.org.