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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Potawatomi Leadership Program Class of 2021
by Hownikan

The 2021 Potawatomi Leadership Program participants spent the summer learning about the Citizen Potawatomi Nation virtually due to the pandemic. The 2021 class consisted of 23 members, and the Hownikan asked every participant some introductory questions. Meet 12 of them now:

Alden Davison | Hometown: Puyallup, Washington
Alden Davison is a junior at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, studying computer science. He founded a computer programming club at ASU and served as a teaching assistant. He enjoys swimming, singing and learning languages. He knows German and is a pinball master.

Davison believes leadership comes from confident decision making and that “few structures exist where one can lead by passively dedicating the amount of effort requested.”

The Kennedy/Weld/Ogee descendant applied for the PLP to learn more about the Tribe’s culture and government as well as meet other CPN members. Making moccasins was one of his favorite activities as well as learning about Native agriculture’s cultural connection to the land.

Alexis Ladner | Hometown: Shawnee, Kansas
Alexis “Lexie” Ladner attends Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. She hopes to become a radiology technician after completing her degree. The Bourbonnais family descendant’s genealogy traces back to Antoine Bourbonnais, namesake of the Bourbonnais Cabin that still stands next to CPN’s Cultural Heritage Center. Ladner enjoys the outdoors, including horseback riding, hunting and skeet shooting.

She believes responsibility and dependability define leadership. “I think a leader puts people first and are empathetic and they try to connect with people,” she said. “They have to be open minded and creative along with being flexible.”

Ladner learned about her ancestors and their history, culture, diet and more while being a part of the PLP. She hopes to pass the knowledge along to the next generations.

Anna Stites | Hometown: Newbern, Tennessee
Greemore family descendant Anna Stites applied to the PLP in an effort to learn more about her Tribe. She begins her junior year at Murray State University in Kentucky in fall 2021, studying chemistry with hopes to attend medical school after her bachelor’s and become a physician.

“As a female physician starting out at a young age, it may be more difficult to gain trust within communities,” Stites said. “I plan to overcome this barrier by being hardworking and trustworthy. Once trust is gained, many of my barriers will be overcome.”

She also finds loyalty an admirable leadership quality and describes herself as caring and
compassionate. Stites enjoys reading, swimming and snowboarding.

Autumn Johnson | Hometown: Quitman, Arkansas
Autumn Johnson recently discovered her matriarchal line of Potawatomi ancestry and enrolled as a Tribal member. As a part of the PLP, she looked forward to learning more about CPN and passing on the history and culture to others. She hoped to learn about traditional foods, in particular. Johnson returns to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway this fall as a junior studying nursing.

Johnson began playing sports at 3 years old. She participated in softball throughout high school and learned how to lead the team.

“I never missed a practice, hoping to lead as an example for the younger girls on my team. ... I constantly worked hard to prove to the others on the team that hard work would get us back in the finals,” Johnson said.

She believes a good leader knows how to communicate.

Bailey Pendley | Hometown: Pryor, Oklahoma
Bailey Pendley felt compelled to apply for the PLP after discussing family lineage with a friend and realizing she needed more knowledge. She keeps a busy schedule as a student at the University of Oklahoma in Norman and returns this fall as a senior studying microbiology. Pendley hopes to continue and finish medical school to serve rural and tribal communities.

The LeClaire family descendant attempts to set herself aside as a leader at her part-time jobs, in class and at home.

“Work ethic, communication and perseverance are all qualities that come to mind when I think about a leader,” she said.

Pendley enjoys exercising, gardening, reading, traveling and cooking.

Braden Bruehl | Hometown: Norman, Oklahoma
Braden Bruehl hoped to learn more about his Potawatomi heritage and culture throughout the PLP as well as develop his leadership skills. Throughout his experience as a youth leader at his church, he “learned that being a leader is not at all about the personal gain
or pride, but the giving back to the community so that you can continue to make a difference in the lives of others,” Bruehl said.

He admires Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett for his accomplishments as CPN’s leader and hopes to give back to the Tribe after completing medical school. The Pambogo family descendant began his freshman year this month at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, studying chemistry as a pre-med student. He enjoys traveling, hiking and playing soccer in his free time.

Brenna Kishkikwé (Cedar Woman) Kelly | Hometown: Missouri City, Texas
Brenna Kelly followed her sister’s footsteps and applied for the PLP after hearing about her experience and the different connections it created. Kelly looked forward to learning about traditions, language and business the most. As a sophomore at the University of Dallas in Texas, she studies business and marketing.

The Melott and Bergeron family descendant has played softball as a catcher and carries leadership lessons from the field into her everyday life.

“Being a leader is active, not passive, and it requires you to work just as hard as those around you,” she said.

Kelly hopes to participate in future activities with the Tribe and bring the fierceness and bravery of her aunt and grandmother who have walked on.

Caelin Fillingim | Hometown: Port Orchard, Washington
Caelin Fillingim started learning about CPN at 18 years old and saw the PLP as an opportunity to expand her knowledge and get involved. The Copaugh family descendant looked forward to beading classes and learning more about traditional ecological knowledge. As a visual communication design major at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Fillingim enjoys Potawatomi floral patterns in particular.

She believes leadership includes a balance of service and self-care.

“It is important that a leader views themselves as a servant to the people who placed them in leadership, rather than getting caught up in their own agenda,” Fillingim said.

She hopes to pass along all she learns to her future children while continuing to serve the Tribe.

CeAirra Bowman | Hometown: Safford, Arizona
As a biology and behavioral health major at Arizona Christian University in Phoenix, CeAirra Bowman plans to become as a physician’s assistant or physician. She begins her senior year of college as a Certified Nursing Assistant and phlebotomist with her CPR certification. The Milot family descendant works at a local nursing home.

Bowman considers herself a leader at work and on ACU’s volleyball team.

“Being a leader means being an inspirational character in the community you live in, someone who possesses the qualities to bring out the best in others, and loves God and others above all,” she said.

Bowman fills her free time with traveling, hiking and caring for animals on her family’s farm.

Daniel Adams | Hometown: Port Washington, Ohio
Daniel Adams decided to apply for the PLP to connect with Tribal culture and learn CPN history but also to use the information he learns later in his career. As an integrated social studies major at Malone University in Canton, Ohio, he plans to become a history teacher or professor. Adams wants to highlight Native history in a new way for future students.

The Toupin family descendant uses his leadership skills as a resident advisor at Malone, including adaptability and level-headedness.

“We have all failed before, but what makes us grow from that failure is one being able to
hold themselves accountable for their mistake or failure,” Adams said.

When not completing classwork or managing the dorms, he enjoys restoring tractors, bowling and bonfires.

Eli McKown | Hometown: Clayton, Michigan
Eli McKown attends Michigan State University in East Lansing. He enjoys writing and sports, which makes sports journalism his ideal major. He begins his junior year this fall and will continue covering university athletics for The State News, MSU’s student newspaper. McKown ran cross-country in high school and enjoys playing basketball. He grew up on a farm in Clayton, Michigan, raising cattle and planting crops.

He describes himself as consistent, yet versatile, and believes leaders should be selfless in their work.

“They have to be able to understand when a moment is bigger than them and make the right decisions or do the thing that others won’t to help move forward,” McKown said.

He applied for the PLP to better connect with his heritage and learn about Potawatomi cuisine.

Grace Laughton | Hometown: Mission, Kansas
Grace Laughton describes herself as friendly, talkative and outgoing. As a theatre and film major at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, she enjoys collaborating with and directing crews for stage productions.

“A good leader should have integrity, be able to communicate with their team effectively, bring people together in times of hardship, motivate others, and, most importantly, inspire greatness and transformation among the people they lead,” Laughton said.

She applied for the PLP to learn more about Potawatomi culture and her heritage. Her favorite activities included beading classes and making moccasins, and Laughton hopes to pass the skills along to other Tribal members.

Hannah Nystrom | Hometown: Topeka, Kansas
With a long list of hobbies and interests, Hannah Nystrom most defines herself by her love of writing. As a junior at the University of Kansas, she double majors in both journalism and environmental science. Learning enough about her family history and culture to be able to write about it and pass it on drew her to the PLP. As a language enthusiast, Nystrom’s favorite part of the program was learning Potawatomi

She is also a certified scuba diver and played on her high school and collegiate women’s soccer teams. Most of her leadership skills came as captain during her junior and senior years of high school.

“I learned I liked being vocal and having my voice heard as well as listening to others and making sure their voices are heard as well,” Nystrom said.

Jenan Cameranesi | Hometown: Palm Springs, California
Jenan Cameranesi focuses on art and art history as a sophomore at Yale University. As a freshman, she acted as assistant stage manager for a couple of small theater department productions, which helped her define what she considers leadership attributes.

“I tend to think of those who work directly within the community, those who work to not only lead but facilitate and collaborate,” she said.

The Beaubien and Pearce family descendant applied to the program to learn more about her mother’s family, especially her great-grandfather. Her passion for artistic expression comes through in her favorite part of the PLP — craft classes, especially beading.

Jozelle Arenz | Hometown: Woodridge, Illinois
Jozie Arenz applied to the PLP to expand on her knowledge of her Potawatomi heritage. The Hardin family descendant enjoyed the cultural teachings and felt connected to traditional medicines as a biology major at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She hopes to attend medical school and serve Native Americans through health services, in particular, reproductive care.

Whether she is leading the trombone section of her high school marching band, interning with the Morton Arboretum or facilitating meditation classes, Arenz shows leadership through passion.

“Passion is contagious, and when you are led by someone who is passionate about a cause, activity, or skill, you become passionate too,” she said.

Maile Morrell | Hometown: Ewa Beach, Hawaii
Maile Morell showed herself as a leader throughout high school as the secretary of student council and involvement with two student body publications. The Higbee descendant’s experiences showed her leadership comes down to grit and self-confidence.

“Grit reveals not only one’s perseverance, but also an individual’s dedication, resilience, and courage. Self-confidence is another quality I associate with leaders because one needs to trust his/her own judgment and direction before one can expect the same from others,” she said.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa sophomore studies psychology, dances ballet, enjoys writing letters and hopes to visit Japan or Korea. She enjoyed traditional crafts, especially beading, during the program.

Mary Hrenchir | Hometown: Paola, Kansas
Mary Hrenchir remembers traveling to Tribal lands in Oklahoma to attend the Family Reunion Festival every summer as a child. She applied for the PLP to interact more and find a spot for herself that aligns with her skills, as both a leader and way to give back to CPN.

“I think the most important quality in a leader is that they are not afraid to stand up for the people that they care about,” she said

As a junior at the University of Kansas, the Schwartz family descendant studies business analytics. Hrenchir also plays the piano, draws, plays Dungeons and Dragons and watches cartoons. She enjoyed learning traditional Potawatomi songs and the history of the Tribe during the program.

Matthew Carney | Hometown: Lacey, Washington
Although his father and aunt are both CPN legislators, Matthew Carney felt the PLP presented an opportunity to explore his identity and bridge the distance between Washington and CPN headquarters in Oklahoma.

“Seeing the amount of pride and respect (my dad and aunt) have for their Native American roots has been really inspiring for me,” he said.

Carney serves as a leader at his part-time job, using his communications skills and adaptability to succeed. The Juneau family descendant is a freshman at the University of Washington, Seattle, studying finance and information systems. He enjoyed learning about the Tribe’s enterprises and businesses.

Matt Dillon Higdon | Hometown: Tecumseh, Oklahoma
Mueller family descendant Matt Dillon Higdon attended PLP to learn more about the Tribe’s history and traditional stories. As a junior studying history at Oklahoma Baptist University, he knows the importance of their preservation. Higdon believes leaders work to prepare and serve others.

“Even though I do not know where my professional life will take me after college. I know that no matter where I end up I will want to mentor the next generation and lead others to better themselves and their community,” he said.

Higdon participates in track and field, helps lead sports camps and enjoys archery. One of his favorite program activities was moccasin making.

MaryKate Godinez | Hometown: Orland Park, Illinois
MaryKate Godinez is a Bourassa family descendant and a senior at Governors State University in University Park, Illinois. She studies psychology and names empathy as one of the most important qualities of a good leader — more important than passion and courage.

“Leaders have to make decisions that impact groups of people, not just a select few,” she said. “In order to ensure the benefits of a decision outweigh the risks, leaders must have the ability to put themselves in others’ shoes.”

Godinez applied to the PLP to learn the Potawatomi language and traditional ecological knowledge as well as connect with Tribal members her age. She also enjoys Beatles trivia and K-pop music.

Payton Godinez | Hometown: Orland Park, Illinois
As a senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Payton Godinez studies web design. She enjoys puzzles, logic problems and escapes room, always looking for a way to bring all of the pieces together, whether on the web or in real life. Godinez also enjoys boba tea, K-pop music, cartoons and video games.

She applied for the PLP to take a bigger role in the Potawatomi community and learn more to keep her heritage alive. The Bourassa family descendant believes leadership and confidence go together.

“Without self-confidence, it’s hard to motivate others and to have them believe in you,” she said. “Most importantly, I would say that a leader has to work with those that are following them.”

Kevin Huberty | Hometown: Elk River, Minnesota
Kevin Huberty defines himself as friendly, quiet, yet interesting. He uses leadership while at his job at a car dealership, when he brings together communication, delegation and problem solving.

“A strong leader needs to have integrity because if you can’t exhibit your honesty and strong morals nobody will trust you as a person,” he said.

This fall, he begins his junior year at North Dakota State University studying finance. He applied to the PLP to get to know Tribal members his own age from across the country and enjoyed learning the history of the Nation, in particular.

Huberty also enjoys outdoor activities, including hunting and fishing, sports and video games.

Grant Benson | Hometown: Edmond, Oklahoma
Grant Benson begins his sophomore year at the University of Oklahoma this fall, studying industrial/systems engineering. The Milot family descendant plans to attend medical school and become a cardiologist or general surgeon, or work toward his MBA. He wants to give back to the Native community as a doctor in tribal health care, a goal inspired by his views on leadership.

“Leadership is a way of life,” Benson said. “It is a way of living so that everything you do sets an example to follow, that is, one of humility … integrity, determination, and, most of all, love.”

He applied for the PLP to “dig up” his roots, meet other Tribal members and learn about Nishnabé culture. Benson loves music and can play the guitar and piano. He also enjoys reading and sports.

Check out their final projects and portfolios at Find out more about the program at and visit the CPN Department of Education at


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