Kelsey Standingdeer and Joey Owle, participants in the Jones-Bowman Leadership Award Program, were co-leaders in organizing a trip in late September that brought 20 North Carolina State University students to Cherokee to learn about the Cherokee people and their culture. They worked with Sara Vogel, a graduate student in counselor education and a resident director at an NC State apartment complex for juniors, seniors and graduate students.
Students had to apply for the trip by answering several questions, including: “What would you hope to gain from this trip?”, “What experiences have you had working with issues of diversity?”, and “How do you see yourself contributing on this trip?” The co-leaders looked for students with a range of experiences with diversity, accepting applications from both ends of the spectrum.
Principal Chief Michell Hicks, Yellowhill Rep. David Wolfe, Chairman Jim Owle and Wolftown Rep. Mike Parker sat down to lunch with the students to prepare them for the three-day trip. They, along with Kelsey Standingdeer and Joey Owle, talked to the students about the history of the Cherokee people, the Trail of Tears and structure of government. Then, students toured Kituwah Academy and explored the Cherokee culture through eating native Cherokee meals, touring the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, visiting Oconaluftee Indian Village, hiking on ancient trails and visiting the Kituwah mound.
Standingdeer, an NC State graduate student in counselor education, said that showing students her hometown “reinforced what a great home” she comes from and the “amazing culture” of the Cherokee.
Joey Owle, a graduate student in soil science at NC State, said, “I was really excited to have them in Cherokee. The group was very thoughtful and asked great questions as they explored Cherokee.“
“The main reason why Joey and I helped organize the trip was to promote Native American issues and to let people learn about our culture,” Standingdeer said. “We worked with Sara Vogel to create the best itinerary for the students so they would get to have a unique cultural experience instead of just doing touristy things. I was so pleased that the Chief was able to meet with us as that was truly a great experience for the group and he was so welcoming. This was a great trip and the students learned so much and gained quite an experience.
“This was part of my leadership plan for the Jones-Bowman program because I knew this was a great chance for me to gain experience within my master’s program and promote the Jones-Bowman program,” Standingdeer said. “It was an amazing opportunity for me to be a leader of a group and make plans for a group of students. I am just so glad to be at NC State and thought it was a great way to bring NC State to Cherokee and for Cherokee to be recognized at NC State.”
“For me, seeing the light bulb moments was the most powerful part of the trip,” Vogel said. “The students learned that there are many common themes throughout history, and one we explored on the Cherokee trip was oppression. I think students see that although there has been oppression in the past and although there still is oppression today, that people can more forward from it and grow from it and grow stronger as a community. The Cherokee people demonstrated this to students by welcoming the students and being open to sharing their culture.”
The Jones-Bowman Leadership Award Program makes financial awards to undergraduate college students committed to developing their leadership skills. The program honors the memory and leadership of Principal Chief Leon Jones and Mr. James Bowman, who were founding members of the Board of Directors of Cherokee Preservation Foundation. Each year they participate in the program, Jones-Bowman Fellows receive funding of approximately $4,000 for individual leadership learning plans they develop with their mentor.
– Cherokee Preservation Foundation