Montana State University

Browning's Powell goes to Washington

December 11, 2007 -- Carol Schmmidt, MSU news


Jerci Powell of Browning has won a Native American Political Leadership Scholarship for an all expenses paid semester at George Washington University. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.    High-Res Available

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Jerci Powell is the first person in her family to attend a four-year college, so when the sophomore from Browning first came to Montana State University, she wanted to make her experience count.

It has not taken her long to do that. The political science major and member of the Blackfeet Tribe is one of just 20 students around the country selected for the Native American Political Leadership Scholarship Program and all expenses paid semester at George Washington University.

"Going to Washington, D.C. to become involved in politics after graduation has been one of my goals, so this experience will help me understand what goes on there before hand," said Powell, who one day envisions herself as a lobbyist or becoming involved in a campaign.

She also may become involved in a national campaign before she imagined. Her scholarship programs calls for a semester internship in Washington.

"This is such a great opportunity," she said. " I feel honored to represent the state and the community that I come from because not many people from where I come from have opportunities like this."

However, when travels there in January it will not be the first time Powell has been to Washington, D.C. Her first trip was with the Close-Up Program in Browning.

"Just being introduced to that world jumpstarted my interest in politics," Powell said. "Living on a reservation, you don't realize that there are other forms of government.

Other enrichment programs in Browning took her to Minnesota, Seattle, and Las Vegas as well as a tour of colleges and universities. On one of those trips Powell said she fell in love with Bozeman.

"I liked the (MSU) campus and I liked the community," Powell said. Powell's twin attends Blackfeet Community College majoring in religious studies, as does her father.

Coming to MSU was at first a culture shock and took a bit of adjustment, Powell said. She said it helped to enroll in general studies and get her feet wet with core requirements. Her first class in political science clinched her long-held interest in the major because "there's just so much you can do with it."

MSU political science professor Jerry Johnson said Powell's focus and determination in going for the scholarship was impressive.

"It's a great lesson for any student at MSU," Johnson said. "Figure out what you want, make some contacts with faculty and they will help. That's part of what makes MSU a special place for students."

"Jerci is witness to the adage that hard work and commitment yields benefits," said Jim Burns, MSU Native American Studies and adviser to MSU's American Indian Council. "Like many students Jerci has overcome challenges but through her perseverance, she is succeeding."

If Powell exhibits a good deal of poise and determination for only a sophomore, she said that is a result of the encouragement and support she has received from her parents John and Junie Powell of Browning. Her mother is "the best beader in Montana," and her father, who works in an addiction treatment program in Browning, has gone back to school.

"I have a great support system," Powell said.

And winning the scholarship is important not only because it will enrich her life, but in a sense is winning a prize for all the students in her community.

"This will shed light for all the kids back home," Powell said. "They don't know about these kinds of opportunities that are available here."

Jim Burns (406) 994-4880, jburns@montana.edu