Twenty-eight students from the Information Technology Academy’s Tribal Technology Institute (ITA-TTI) Oneida and Lac du Flambeau programs recently spent four days in Madison for the ITA-TTI 2016 Spring Leadership Conference. After months of planning by ITA-TTI Program Manager Christopher Kilgour, Academic Instructor Brenda Gonzalez Vazquez, Administrative Assistant Cassandra McNeal, and Student-Employees Bobbi Skenandore, Eddie Ukoeninn, and Besma Aly, the conference was held from March 31 to April 3. The Spring Conference is part of an effort to connect tribal students with each other, introduce them to the City of Madison and the UW-Madison campus, and provide them with an opportunity to meet counterparts from the ITA Madison program.
In addition to morning technology trainings and a practice ACT exam, the busy conference schedule included numerous cultural events such as the annual Spring Powwow hosted by Wunk Sheet and the UW-Madison. In addition, Aaron Bird Bear, Interim Assistant Dean and Director of the School of Education’s Student Diversity Programs, led the group on a walking tour of campus highlighting landmarks important to American Indian history.
William (Bill) Mendoza, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education, visited the students and shared his personal journey, which included both challenges such as people lower their expectations for him based on his racial identity and wisdom gleaned along the way. Students also shared a meal with Will Decorah and Bronson Koenig, Ho-Chunk tribal members and current members of the UW-Madison basketball team.
If the near-immediate exchange of social media monikers is any indicator, it is safe to say that the students from ITA-TTI Oneida and ITA-TTI Lac du Flambeau thoroughly enjoyed meeting their ITA-Madison peers. In gaining familiarity with the City of Madison and UW-Madison’s campus, students also realized that Madison is not as scary as they may have thought. But perhaps most importantly, Kilgour said, “The lightbulb went on” throughout the spring conference, as ITA-TTI students realized that going to college at UW-Madison could be in their future.