Ashley at the College Fund info booth.Guest blog post by Ashley, a Pre-Health, Pre-Nursing student at Salish Kootenai College

I was chosen to attend the American Indian Science and Engineering Society National Conference (AISES) in Orlando, Florida. I would first like to thank you very much for this amazing opportunity to represent the Walmart Foundation, the American Indian College Fund, Salish Kootenai College, and the Big Valley Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians. I felt extremely honored when offered this chance to be a sponsored attendee at such a prestigious event. This year’s theme was Transcend, which was appropriate for my position as a first-year student.

At the conference I learned social and career-building skills along with academic skills.

I attended the Networking 101 seminar, which taught me how to mingle, to be professional, and represent myself well. I also learned about maintaining connections with those I have met even if they are not someone I may need to reach out to right away. The interactive session brought structure and a framework to the art of networking and helped prepare me for the next few days, as I met many people from many different places.

I prepared myself for seeking an internship by creating a resume I will use to apply for an internship with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. I also visited the career opportunity fair, featuring major companies and graduate schools, to discuss internships and advanced study programs. I learned about an Indians into Medicine program at the University of North Dakota which can help me pursue my master’s degree in public health.

I was able to get perspectives on career paths and heard three different science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors’ stories on how they carved out their careers, opening my eyes to different opportunities.

At a speech seminar, I learned how to communicate effectively in order to comfortably deliver my messages. This will help me when working with people ranging from community members to people who may possibly be funding a program my community needs.

I learned I can maintain balance as a Native scholar and one day as a Native professional while knowing the expectations and works of college and work. I felt affirmed that even though I got a late start on college and may have done things ‘out of order’, I can still achieve my dream with hard work, teamwork and keeping my eye on the end goal for myself and my community.

Coming from a small reservation, my world has been so small. Moving to Montana to attend SKC broadened the horizons for me but this event really opened me up to the world. I was also inspired by the number of brilliant American Indians attending and how many overcame numerous obstacles to get where they are today. I felt even more overcome with emotion knowing that I was chosen to be there. The entire conference showed me how many opportunities are waiting to be grasped and I left motivated to work to be my best.

Thank you again for this amazing opportunity to help me see the potential in myself. I will forever be grateful and moved by this experience.