SUST Alumni Guest Post: Bridget Powers (BA ’14) Reflects on Her Americorps VISTA Year at the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana

IMG_0865This alumni guest post is by Bridget Powers (BA ’14), who after graduation secured an AmeriCorps VISTA post working at a Boys and Girls Club on the Northern Cheyenne Nation’s Reservation in Montana in 2015. She spent last year writing grants, developing environmental education curriculum, leading field trips for children, and contributing to various community development projects on the reservation. Here she reflects on her SUST education at Roosevelt and her experiences on the Cheyenne Reservation.

I joined Americorps VISTA  to serve in Montana and work with the Boys and Girls Club of the Northern Cheyenne Nation in January of 2015. Coming to Montana and working with the club has been  one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I have been able to work with a great organization, become a part of a completely different community, and help make a difference in children’s lives.

Campers getting ready to swim at one of the ponds at Crazy Head Springs at the annual weeklong No"Meth"ing Around summer camp in July, 2015, (B. Powers)

Campers getting ready to swim at one of the ponds at Crazy Head Springs at the annual weeklong No”Meth”ing Around summer camp in July, 2015, (B. Powers)

When I was applying for VISTA positions I was looking for programs in areas that would be very different from my home town of Chicago and outside of my comfort zone. The State of Montana hosts 15 different AmeriCorps programs and projects that place dedicated individuals in communities across the state that work to help improve the lives and people living in Montana.

Since as a Sustainability Studies student I gravitated towards policy and its impacts on a community, I wanted to have a better understanding of rural communities and their challenges, especially coming from an urban area like Chicago. I have been able to spend time living with the Cheyenne people and experiencing life in Montana.

Listening to traditional stories around a campfire, Northern Cheyenne Reservation (B. Powers, 2015)

Listening to traditional stories around a campfire, Northern Cheyenne Reservation (B. Powers, 2015)

The Boys and Girls Club of the Northern Cheyenne Nation is a year-round after-school and summer program. The Boys and Girls Club of the Northern Cheyenne Nation is located on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation located in southeastern Montana. Life on the reservation is very difficult, as there are very high unemployment and substance abuse rates. Many of the children we serve are living in broken and impoverished homes and the Boy and Girls Club provides stability and structure that are greatly needed in their lives.

The Boys and Girls Club is the only community entity on the reservation that provides facility‐based after-school and summer programs designed to enhance academic performance, inspire character development, and promote healthy life choices. There are three active Boys and Girls Club Units on the reservation, located in the Lame Deer, Ashland, and Busby communities. The Boys and Girls Club also has a strong cultural component that is very unique to the club.

Bridget Powers (BA '14) and kids from the Boys and Girls Club, Northern Cheyenne Reservation (2015)

Bridget Powers (BA ’14) and kids from the Boys and Girls Club, Northern Cheyenne Reservation (2015)

My duties at the club included writing grants and working on creating new curriculum. I also was a major part of the committee to open the new club unit in the Busby community. I have also been able to work with the kids directly and they are some of the most deserving kids I have ever met despite the challenges that they face every day. I have been able to go on several cultural trips with the club kids to important sites of cultural and religious significance for the Cheyenne People.

The time I have spent here with the Cheyenne has been very rewarding and I know I will always love and think positively of my time with the Cheyenne people. I have had the opportunity to be embraced by the people in the community and they have been open to sharing with me an understanding of their lifestyle and cultural traditions. I have been able to help on a ranch, gaining an understanding about hunting and its importance; I have also been able to participate in tribal ceremonies and celebrations.

On an ATV on the banks of the Tongue River, helping to herd cattle for branding (B. Powers, 2015)

On an ATV on the banks of the Tongue River, helping to herd cattle for branding (B. Powers, 2015)

Overall I have loved living a country life and plan to always be involved in some way with the Boys and Girls Club of the Northern Cheyenne Nation. My work here has definitely changed my career focus. I am still planning to attend grad school in the near future; however, I’ve discovered that I would like to work with and for children.

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