Those attending the Nov. 19 program included students’ families, community members, and POSOH Project collaborators. The Sustainability Leadership Cohort is comprised of students from the Menominee, Oneida, Shawano and Bowler high schools in grades 10-12. Those currently participating are Charlene Tourtillott, Naneque LaTender, Santana Caldwell, AnnMarie Spice, Shannon Caskey, Brandon Warrington, Jacob Schwitzer, Nicholas Schwitzer, Bernice Stevens and Sandra Torres.
The evening began with a welcome by Dr. Verna Fowler, President of the College. Dr. Fowler spoke about the importance of programs like the Sustainability Leadership Cohort to Menominee youth and why it is vital to continue providing these opportunities in our community. The students themselves reinforced this statement as the night progressed.
Attendees were given time to visit tables that featured various CMN organizations. These included recruitment, the Feathers Chronicles literary magazine, and SEEDS, a student group focused on campus sustainability. Guests were also encouraged to speak with the high school students about their time in the SLC and then heard the feature presentation, the premiere of “SLC News”. This program is the first Native youth television program in the state of Wisconsin.
The news program features interviews made by the students while on a study tour to Belize. They talked on the subject of sustaining families with indigenous peoples of Belize and Guatemala, Central America, and from the Menominee community, Oneida Nation and the Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohicans. The students were taught about the Menominee Model of Sustainability by Dr. William VanLopik and learned how to apply the concepts to their own lives and communities. While in Belize, the group realized that although the model was specific to the Menominee area, the concepts can be applied to places near and far.
Community members were eager to ask questions of the youth immediately following the screening of their news magazine program. The students responded thoughtfully to questions such as, “How has being part of the SLC impacted you since you have been back in school this fall?” and “What have you learned from your international experience in Belize?” When asked what they would tell someone who was trying to develop a program like the SLC in another community, Jacob Schwitzer answered, “You have to have a leadership component”. “There has to be diversity”, added Naneque LaTender, “like in our cohort. There are students from three different high schools; we would have never even met if not for this program.”
At the end of the night the students were presented with certificates of completion to recognize all of their hard work and determination throughout the program. Staff organizers say the 10 students who were involved demonstrated community leadership, inquisitiveness, and a deep understanding of the importance of learning from indigenous people all over the world.
The SLC program is designed to support young people in the Wolf River watershed area to build leadership skills, promote higher education, and ultimately, to foster the next generation of community leaders. This program based at the College of Menominee Nation’s Sustainable Development Institute is made possible through the POSOH Project, funded by USDA. For more information about the Sustainability Leadership Cohort contact Cherie Thunder, Sustainability Education Coordinator in CMN’s Sustainable Development Institute at 715-799-6226, ext. 3243, or email firstname.lastname@example.org