Pioneers in Education Sends Three to Academy

Feb 15th, 2007 | By | Category: 18-3: Building Prosperity, Tribal College News

From left, Daviaann Connywerdy, Orlando Avery, Kelley Mitchell. Photos provided by Pioneers in Education.

Three tribal college students were selected to attend the Pioneers Student Leadership Academy last summer sponsored by the Pioneers in Education (PiE). They were Kelley Mitchell from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA, Santa Fe, NM), Orlando Avery from Oglala Lakota College (OLC, Kyle, SD), and Daviaann Connywerdy from Comanche Nation College (Lawton, OK).

Selected students get a two-week leadership training experience, a $1,000 scholarship, and a mentor for life. DuPont sponsored the tribal college students as well as five others who came from families who were impacted by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. .

Instructors, session presenters, and mentors come from the ranks of Fortune 500 companies, the military, government, and educational institutions. The program provides leadership development and mentoring opportunities for under-served, under-represented college students who are U. S. citizens or have permanent resident status.

“This is a great opportunity for kids who, for example, would not otherwise get to meet the president of Exxon/Mobile,” says PiE Executive Director Jim Paige.

The students were selected partly based on their essays about leadership. Daviaann Connywerdy (Psychology major) said, “I am a natural leader at Comanche Nation College because I’m always available to assist other students with their research, writing, and other study skills. I think being willing to always help is a leadership trait.”

Orlando Avery (Teacher Education major) said, “I define leadership as a technique of showing yourself and others how to be productive in everyday life and giving them the guidance to show them the way to reach their goals.”

Kelley Mitchell (Museum Studies major) said, “By respecting cultural, ethical, and intellectual attributes, a leader creates a democratic environment in which all members have the opportunity to input their unique voice to add to the advancement of the group’s goals.”  Mitchell is vice president of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) Student Congress.

Following his experience, Orlando Avery, Pioneer intern and a member of the AIHEC Student Congress, said he would petition the AIHEC Board to work with PiE to develop a PSLA Leadership Academy for tribal colleges across the nation.

“This is exactly the kind of program we need in Indian Country” said Comanche Nation College President Dr. Kim Winkelman, who has been involved with PiE for several years.

Next summer’s academy will be hosted by George Washington University. Applications are now being accepted, and the deadline will be in April.

For more information, see or contact Jim Paige at

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