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By Jesse Utz 

Careers and life do mix


In case you had not heard yet, I got a new job at the school this year. I am the Pathways Coordinator at Lake Roosevelt. With that comes a couple of very big boots to fill. Those boots belonged to Cathy Krohn and Tiffany Gerard, who paved the way, set up all the groundwork and established and cultivated the program. There are many moving parts that I am responsible for, and one of those things is Career Day.

So Career Day is an opportunity for experts in their fields to come into Lake Roosevelt and speak to students who might possibly have interest in going down the same path that the presenters did. This year our goal was to put people in front of the kids that they could relate to. Presenters that looked like them, came from their community, attended Lake Roosevelt and walked similar paths as them as a youth. We do all that while exposing them to something new and exciting. We had a lot of great speakers this year but I wanted to just tell you a few awesome moments that I noticed and heard about.

Sometimes things just click. We had two presenters that are both currently nominated for the Community Spirit Award, Sponsored by First Peoples Fund (who was also a presenter). Julie Edwards, or should I say Assistant Chief Edwards, works for Colville Tribal Law Enforcement and has recently been promoted to the before-mentioned title. She is an asset to any community, but her work with her people has been powerful on our local reservation. She is also a local expert on tribal history and traditions. I have sat in classes she has taught and she is a wealth of knowledge and facts, presented in a tender yet firm passion for the subject, and that subject is her people. I had many students tell me how much they enjoyed her talk, but one student made me smile. He told me, “I never knew that a cop could be so cool and tell us such great things about being a police officer. I might want to be a cop.” He said all this with a smile that had not been there very often over the year. She had spoken life and hope into this young mind.

The other presenter nominated for this award was James Pakootas. He and his best friend, Ceth Leonard, presented on the Music Industry, speaking about their adventures through the years, trying and succeeding to record their own material sometimes in unconventional ways. James’ story is a little more personal, though. He takes the time to tell about his battle with addictions along the way. The war that comes with a little bit of success, followed by a bigger war with his addiction. His story always seems like it could get no worse, and then it does. But he has conquered that demon and now wants to give back to the youth. To prevent them from stepping into the nightmare that he did. Kids were moved. There were tears, awakening and abrupt life-changing decisions made on the spot. A few kids wanted to talk to James one-on-one, and did afterwards.

Sometimes we put these career ideas on a shelf and pull it down every once in awhile and say, “someday.” But in the meantime, life goes on. These two awesome community members are making a difference in lives by using their careers as that stepping stone. They are giving back, they are empowering, they are special to us all. Both of these individuals deserve this award that will be announced any day now. Guess what, even if they don’t win, just being around them for a little while makes us all winners. They are important to all of us every day, from opposite ends of the spectrum, but speaking life into the younger generation has become an intricate part of their journey. We are all better people for just knowing them.

I hope they both win; they both deserve it.

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