Ho-Chunk’s Higher Ed Division commends its summer interns at recognition luncheon

By Tim Wohlers

The Ho-Chunk Nation’s Division of Higher Education acknowledged its summer interns during a recognition luncheon in Black River Falls earlier this month, to mark the end of their 10-week program. 
“This class was fantastic,” said Division Manager Marcus Lewis.  “Just to hear the work that these folks did this summer is incredibly inspiring.”  
The event took place on Aug. 11, at the Skyline Golf Course clubhouse.  There, the six students who participated in the 2017 internship program were recognized for everything they had accomplished during their two and a half months on the job. 
First to address the audience was Executive Director of Education Nehomah Thundercloud, who expressed her gratitude to those in the Higher Ed Division.  She praised them for their hard work, and for extending such a unique opportunity to young tribal members.   
“I want to thank the Higher Ed staff,” said Thundercloud.  “The students had very successful experiences at their sites.” 
The executive director then explained the purpose of an internship, and all the benefits of taking part in one.  She said that the experience helps college students find their forte while developing important, professional skills. 
“They’re honing in on a specialty,” Thundercloud said, “and becoming young professionals.” 
Each of the interns were then asked to come forward with their site supervisor, to talk about some things they had done over the summer. 
Breaking the ice was Ms. Brenna Two Bears, an Art History major who interned for the Ho-Chunk Museum Project.  Her site supervisor, Museum Director Josephine Lee had nothing but praise for the recent college grad.   
“Brenna really helped with the planning,” Lee said.  “She’s been really valuable in helping to get some of our events off the ground.” 
Two Bears said that the internship helped her with a valuable skill she would need in years to come. 
Since the museum has not been built yet, much of her work involved what those in the professional world refer to as preplanning. 
“It was really valuable for me to learn how to plan ahead,” Two Bears said, “because that’s basically what I was doing.  Everything that she asked of me involved planning a year ahead.” 
The intern and her site supervisor said that they will likely remain in contact so that they could discuss matters relating to the museum. 
Business major Dazha Pidgeon spent her summer in the Office of the President, conducting research that would help the department make many of its decisions.  Public Relations Officer Collin Price served as her site supervisor. 
“Our aids really took a liking to Dazha,” Price said.  “She’s very pleasant to work with.  It was just, overall, a really great experience.” 
The intern agreed.  She said that there was a considerable lack of direction from those in the president’s office, but admitted that the autonomy made her become more independent and boosted her self-confidence. 
“I really enjoyed it,” Pidgeon said.  “And I’m really thankful for all the skills that I’ve gained through this internship.” 
Price said he hoped that the recent college graduate would choose to return and take up a career with the Nation. 
UW-La Crosse student Ryan John Crain interned with Ho-Chunk’s Department of Business and took part in various simulations, such as creating a database that tracked the casinos’ high-rollers.  The senior-level student said that he could see himself one day working for the department. 
“I had a great experience,” Crain said.  “About halfway through, I started to realize that this is somewhere I want to be.  And once I graduate in May, I plan on applying for a position and coming back.” 
His site supervisor, Senior Marketing Manager David Greendeer expressed optimism about Crain’s future with the Nation.  He said the department would even consider bringing him back on board. 
“We hope for someday to see him in a leadership position with us,” Greendeer said, “running our businesses.” 
Supervisory Management major Joy Snake spent her summer in the Education Department, handling the new financial-literacy program.  Executive Director Nehomah Thundercloud said she was highly impressed with her work. 
“This has been a really great summer working with Joy,” Thundercloud said.  “She was very dependable, and provided great service to our families and students.” 
During her internship, Snake took over the financial-literacy program almost single-handedly.  She said the responsibility was unexpected, but nothing that she wasn’t able to manage. 
“It was kind of dropped on me,” Snake said, “but I was able to pick it up and keep it going.” 
The director said Snake’s work has been of so much value to the department that, for the foreseeable future, she will continue in her position as an LTE. 
Psychology major Salena Lemieux worked for the Health Department at one of the Nation’s clinics, where she spent substantial time with an intake specialist learning the ins and outs of the job.  The clinicians said she learned quickly, and that she was a huge help to the team. 
“It was awesome having Salena with us,” said Hera Lonetree-Reindahl.  “She was really able to develop a rapport with our clients.” 
Lemieux claimed that the experience changed her life.  She said it confirmed her decision to go into the medical field, and made her realize everything that she was capable of. 
“This summer was truly life-changing,” Lemieux said.  “I went from not knowing what I wanted to do to being confident that I could do this, if this is what I really wanted to pursue.” 
Members of the Health Department said that they would love to see Salena come back. 
Last but not least was Biomedical Sciences major Alyse Machuca, who interned at the House of Wellness in Baraboo.  During her internship, Machuca worked on a colon-cancer-screening project for tribal members over the age of 50. 
Dr. Amy Delong witnessed the intern’s transformation throughout her time there. 
“It’s been an absolute pleasure spending the last nine weeks with Alyse in the clinic,” Delong said.  “We had a medical student also doing an internship with us.  So it was great for her, as a recent graduate, to talk to someone who was in the throes of medical school about that experience.” 
The recent graduate said that she was nervous when she came up from Florida, where she attended college, but was pleased with the way things went.  She also said that, from her time spent in the doctor’s office, she has now realized that the field of medicine is not suited for her. 
“This experience has probably been the best of my summers,” Machuca said.  “And I found out that family medicine – or just medicine, in general – is not what I want to go into.” 
Those involved in the program were happy for Machuca, and said that discovering what one doesn’t want to do is just as important as finding out what one does want to do.
“That’s part of the purpose of this program,” Lewis said.  
After their presentations, the interns were each given a Pendleton blanket in recognition of all their achievements.  A drum group commemorated the event by performing a song in their honor. 
Lewis said that he and his colleagues in Education were extremely proud of their 2017 interns, and all their hard work. 
“It was really a pleasure to get to know these individuals,” Lewis said. 
The division manager then revealed that this year’s class was his favorite group of interns – but that he also looks forward to working with next year’s group.