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Sharing My Dream With You

Kristie presenting on her tribe, the Sault Tribe of Chippewa (Ojibwe) Indians, to the

2nd grade class at Winnequah School for Native American History Month

Happy MLK Day! So many of Dr. King’s messages ring loudly for me give me inspiration. As an Ojibway girl growing up in poverty on an island in Lake Huron, I had a dream. I had many dreams but my BIG dream was going to college. Both of my parents dropped out of high school at 16. My grandma dropped out of school in third grade to help her parents work on their farm. Her parents were straight off the boat from Belgium and they didn't speak English. They built a farm in southern Door County and she needed to help them on the farm.

When no one in your family has ever attended college and they don't understand the process or how to access it, there might as well be a 100' wall up between you and that dream of gaining a higher education. That's how it felt.

Although I graduated fourth in my high school class, no one ever asked me if I planned to go to college. I would hear my teachers asking everyone else but I think no one thought that was something I could access—except for me.

I didn't know how to make it happen but with the help of one individual who gave me a hand up and helped me fill out financial aid forms and the application, I was accepted at UW-Madison four years after graduating high school in 1989. That person was the son of the big orange Wisconsin trucking company, Schneider National. He'd had a life of opportunity but saw potential in me and believed in me. I had almost given up the fight for making it happen so I am eternally grateful to him.

Getting a college degree was a game changer for me. As a first generation college student, it wasn't easy. I never felt like I fit in. I was older, I was a member of a diverse group in a sea of students who'd only known privilege and opportunities. I had two jobs in addition to a full load of credits. But my whole life had prepared me for things like this. Hard work, clinging to hope against all odds, and striving to be the best I can be through self motivation, sheer determination, and tenacity; that’s what helped me achieve my dream.

Now I'm here with the opportunity to be the first Native American/Ojibway Mayor in the State of Wisconsin, and one of only a handful of Native Mayors in the country. And it would be such an honor to serve you as the Mayor of Monona.

You are the reason I'm in this position today. Your encouragement, gratitude for my service to my community, and undying support has made this opportunity possible for me. Miigwech to all of you and may you find your inspiration today and every day!

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