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Washington trip brings Tribal students close up to government

Mikiyela Cypress, Tyrek Lasane, Janessa Jones and Chandler DeMayo join Brighton Councilman Andrew J. Bowers Jr. at the USET Impact Week in Washington, D.C. (Contributed photo)

Leadership skills don’t always come naturally but they can be learned, which is what four Tribal high school students did at Close Up Washington and United South and Eastern Tribes Impact Week from Feb. 4-10 in Washington, D.C.

Tyrek Lasane, Chandler DeMayo, Janessa Jones and Mikiyela Cypress received an education in government and leadership during the intensive program that gives give students a first-hand look at Federal and Tribal government structures.

“Meeting kids from other tribes in the workshop was the highlight of the week,” said Tyrek, 18. “We learned about what goes on in the tribes and that it’s difficult to get resolutions passed because of all the steps of approval. Most of us haven’t taken the time to speak up and give our opinion to the Council and I learned that communication needs to continue and not to give up until there is change.”
Eighty-seven students from 17 tribes learned about issues facing Native Americans from specialists working inside the federal government. Those experts included a former director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the deputy director of the Office of Tribal Justice in the Department of Justice, the director of the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute, the director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education and the deputy assistant secretary for Native American programs in the Housing and Urban Development Office of Public and Indian Housing.

Students also learned how to become active participants in the democratic process by crafting resolutions to be heard by the USET Council. The Tribal Action Initiative had students identify issues on their reservations and suggest a solution. The Seminole students were concerned with finding a way to offer language classes on each reservation.

“The program afforded them the opportunity to learn how to be a leader, work in a group and learn from real world experiences,” said education outreach advisor Elizabeth Shelby. “They experienced camaraderie among themselves and other Native students and gained confidence to be independent thinkers.”

In addition to the USET Indian policy workshops, the students toured the White House, the Capitol, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, various memorials and took in a show at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Sitting at a table at USET are Tyrek Lasane and Janessa Jones with Mikiyela Cypress and Chandler DeMayo behind them.
Tyrek Lasane and Chandler DeMayo at USET
Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at