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Sheldon Standish is embracing the opportunities at MSU and leading by example

Enrollment and retention of Native American students at universities across the nation is a challenge. However, at Minot State University, 19-year-old sophomore and Native American Cultural Club president, Sheldon Standish, sees this challenge as his chance to capitalize on encouraging other Native Americans to embrace all that higher education has to offer.

"I grew up and went to school on a reservation," Standish said. "I really credit my parents, in particular my dad, who is Native American for teaching me to value diversity and recognize and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. He taught me to, ‘always persevere - never quit.' I saw going to a university as a way that I could build upon the foundation he built for me. Life wasn't easy for him, but he managed to make a difference for himself, his family and others on the reservation. I want to do better than that. I want to be able to truly give back to the tribes - even if for now, it is only by word of mouth and through MSU club events, such as the Spring Honor Dance and Powwow Celebration."

Standish is likely one of the youngest presidents in the history of the Native American Cultural Awareness Club. Standish is charismatic, friendly and outgoing. Despite natural leadership and strong communication skills, he says his ability to balance the demands of school with the expectations of his role as club president are truly because of the influence of past club members, along with the guidance and direction of Annette Mennem, the Native American Center director, and the inspiration he finds in his instructors, like Kevin Neuharth, communication arts associate professor.

"It's actually a funny story," Standish laughed. "When I first came to the enrollment orientation, a member of the [Native American Cultural Awareness] club actually approached me about joining. I was reluctant at first, because I really wanted to just stick with my plan of staying focused on my getting my education. I didn't really think about getting involved in anything extracurricular, let alone becoming a president of a club. My fellow students, advisors and professors here at MSU are who help me stay focused and determined to achieve my goals."

Standish is currently focused on his general education while pursuing his undergraduate degree. Although undecided as to a major at this time, his dream is to obtain a graduate degree in an area of study that will allow him to better empower and serve the needs of Native Americans.