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Emma Johns says farewell to Education Department

By Emma Johns

Have you ever woke up thinking you have plenty of years left to have a house full of children, plenty of time to enjoy them and spend time with them? Then one day reality strikes and you realize that time has slipped away and the house full of children you hoped for is you plus one, and your plus one is entering high school, planning for college and has grown up in a blink of an eye.

After leaving my daughter’s high school open house back in August, I returned home, set my keys on the counter and picked up a picture that was lying there. It was a picture of her kindergarten year. I began to cry and feel the emotional pain of feeling like so many memories and so much time had gone by without notice.

That moment was a vivid reality shock.

The reality being that I have four more years to hug, kiss and see my daughter every day before she moves on to a life of her own. Wow, talk about a meltdown and an overwhelming feeling of fear.

My daughter, Kailin, has been my champion over these past 13 years, enduring my whirlwind schedule without complaint. We truly are a team. I have made a bold and painfully difficult decision to leave my position as the director of Education to be more accessible, both mentally and physically, to my daughter. The rumor mill has been doing some fine work about why I am stepping down, but after 13 years with the Tribe, I assure you neither one person nor incident could run me away from doing what I love. Only my sweet little blessing of a daughter is possible of this influenced decision.

I will not say that a job like this does not come without many struggles, but facing and overcoming trials is the nature of making a difference.

Of my nearly 13 years with the Tribe, five-and-a-half of those years have been as the director of Education.

When I was offered this position, I was hesitant in accepting. I doubted myself, my ability and the timing. I knew the directorship was one of my goals, but I was not sure if my employment history was at a maturation level that warranted the position. However, I knew that I wanted to make a difference, and I knew that the opportunity was a blessing being offered up to me. I never turn down a blessing, so I accepted the position and I have no regrets.

Over the past five-and-a-half years, we have been able to transform each program within Education.

Our Higher Education numbers are at an all-time high for both enrollment and graduates.

Our goal this year was to have 75 students enrolled in college, and we currently have 88. This past year, we celebrated our highest number of college graduates. Our 2012 high school graduating class received more than $50,000 in outside scholarships. Our tutoring program has been successful with the overall GPA hovering at 3.2 for one on one.

This year, we had our first student accepted to and now attending an Ivy League school. Recently, we held a senior college application workshop where we have students applying to Ivy League schools for their freshman year.

I am proud of the fact that we have helped nearly 80 members obtain their GED with a new program implemented in 2011 that has brought our GED program into the 21st century.
We have taken the work experience program from approximately 20 Tribal members to more than 100 members employed by the program.

Our Tribal Youth Council initiative is beginning to make statements, very recently meeting and impressing former U.S. Sen. Dorgan. The accomplishments and success stories are endless and accolades are due to the students and the staff for each and every one of those stories.

I believe that my greatest accomplishment has been continuing to build a department that was gifted to me by my predecessors. I was handed the gift of being the director because others believed in me, my vision and my abilities. Individuals like the former director Louise Gopher and past and current Tribal Council members are due my ultimate gratitude for this opportunity.

I am proud of the highly competent, educated and dedicated team that is in place within the Education Department. Without them, the department’s success and accomplishments could not have been possible. I have learned so much from each one of them, which in turn has helped me to be a better director. The invaluable acceptance and support from parents and students has helped support me in an indescribable way. I will miss these daily interactions, trips and overall constant communication with them.

My years with the Education Department have been some of the most rewarding and self-fulfilling years of my life. Being in a position that has afforded me the opportunity to help my people achieve educational milestones is a rewarding feeling that can never be described in words. It is a feeling that can only be felt within, and articulation could never do that feeling justice.

My prayer is that this department continues on its current path, building on the current foundation, creating bigger and better things. Obtaining an education is the one thing that an individual can forever feel proud of and use as a tool to achieve bigger and better things. There isn’t an age limit on continuing your education. If you think about it, then DO IT. Fear is something that is meant to be conquered, so don’t let it stop you from pursuing your goals and dreams.

What’s next for me? First real estate school, writing for The Tribune, tutoring, and I have recently been accepted to Warner University because I am contemplating adding to my educational resume. I plan on staying busy and continuing to assist my Tribe in any capacity that I can.

I would like to thank the Creator for all the opportunities he has gifted to me. Thank you to my family for your continued support and love. Thank you Kailin for sharing me so that I could carry forward a vision to help my Tribe. Thank you Education staff for your commitment to my people and to me as the director. Thank you students for our lasting bonds and for your perseverance and achievements that make me smile every day. Thank you STOF for believing in me.

This is not a retirement; it’s a break to fulfill another commitment.

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