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Living the ACD experience: State of amazement

Aaron Tommie 2R&B singer John Legend’s song “Live It Up” talks of embracing prosperity after experiencing a life plagued with limitations that come with financial struggle. Throughout the song, he reflects on those arduous periods in the past, which help make it easier to appreciate success.

Long gone are the days where it’s necessary to hunt to feed our families. Memories of picking oranges, walking miles to attend school and cutting palm trees to sell during Easter seem like ancient history. We’ve come a long way since our official recognition in 1957, but can you imagine how much further we can go?

Throughout my life, there have been times where I looked back and wished I would have put more effort into whatever it was that I was doing. That feeling of knowing I could have done more, but didn’t, is very uncomfortable to live with, which is why I viewed working in the Advanced Career Development (ACD) program as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I didn’t want to mess up.

When I walk through the doors of Tribe Headquarters, ride through the entrances of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood or cover events throughout the reservations, I’m in a constant state of amazement and admiration. Not many people experience the privileges we have.

Prior to working for the Tribe, I had less than two years of work experience. During the majority of my freshmen year of college in 2007, I had a work-study job. Two years later, I tutored at an intermediate school. Then during the spring 2012 semester, I interned for three months at a Christian-based vegan company. As a marketing intern, my input was encouraged as I sat in meetings next to the company’s founder, marketing director and other employees with high-level positions. Despite my inexperience and youth, I was treated as an equal.

On Sept. 21, 2015, I began working for the Seminole Tribe of Florida as a manager trainee through the Education Department’s ACD program. I began in the Executive Operations Office (EOO) to better understand how the Tribe functions. Most people see all the glitz and glamour but don’t see the work it takes to make it happen.

During the first week, I was mainly in training, which made it easier for me to adjust to the routine of going to work. Gladys Mateo, the EOO’s administrative assistant, was extremely helpful. I often referred to her as my work mother because she always gave me advice. Like my own mother, Gladys encouraged me to learn more about my Seminole culture. No matter how many questions I asked, she was always willing to answer them.

Within my first week or two, I visited Billie Swamp Safari in Big Cypress. It was important that I experienced the Safari for myself so that I could share my observations with my superiors. By doing this, I gained an understanding of a visitor’s experience. I saw animals that I never even heard of. Water buffalo? Florida panther?

Eating at the Swamp Water Café, the Safari’s restaurant, was a great experience as well. Anyone who knows me is aware of my affinity for food.

My next assignment, also at the Safari, came when CNN interviewed Chairman James E. Billie about an alligator who, years ago, was named after Donald Trump. My duty was to see how the Tribe conducts interviews with the public.

I met Chairman Billie several times in the past. Before the CNN crew arrived, he told stories of Seminole history. I listened in awe.

During the next few weeks, I continued to learn more about the Tribe’s history. I read stories about The Seminole Tribune’s founder, Betty Mae Jumper, and the Tribe’s acquisition of the Hard Rock brand. I did anything I could to further immerse myself into the Tribe’s activities. I attended Council and community meetings. I watched eye-opening and informative videos on effective leadership, communication and management.

I used my last few weeks in Operations to prepare working for The Tribune. Since I knew that I would be expected to write stories, I researched issues existing in Indian Country. Countless hours were spent learning how issues such as obesity and substance abuse affect Native Americans throughout the States.

After my six-week tenure ended with EOO in mid-October, I started working for the newspaper.

The more I learn about our culture and history, the more amazed I am. Meeting many people from various departments at Headquarters allows me to observe how employees interact with each other, especially the way people in leadership conduct themselves. I observe and take mental notes of their mannerisms and actions.

Currently, there are three participants in the ACD program. I’ve never been around an organization that does so much for its people. Having the opportunity to be part of something that is ultimately of service to us is a wonderful opportunity.


Aaron Tommie
Aaron has worked for the Tribe since 2015. He is inspired by people who are selfless, humble, and motivated. His family is the most important aspect of his life and is a die hard fan of the Los Angeles Lakers. He came to work for the Tribe to show his appreciation to his ancestors for the blessings Tribal citizens receive based on their foresight and the sacrifices they made. He loves mysteries and conspiracy theories and is a huge on a great story line or plot in something that is supposed to entertain him.