Skenandore learning to lead as AIO Ambassador
By Dawn Walschinski - Kalihwisaks
Candice Skenandore was selected to be part of the Americans for Indian Opportunity
(AIO) Ambassador Program, and hit the ground running at a week-long training
held July 6-12, 2013 in Albuquerque, New Mexico
“We’ve been going nonstop all week,” said Skenandore who is
a legislative analyst in the Oneida Legislative Reference Office (LRO).
The AIO selected 18 indigenous people from around the world
to develop their leadership skills in order to strengthen their communities. The
AIO spearheads the program in the belief that today’s Indigenous communities
and tribal governments require strong leadership to ensure their cultural,
political, and economic growth and well-being.
“They’ve been around for 20 years. This is the first class that
has international students,” said Skenandore. The ambassadors hailed from Peru,
Japan and Bolivia.
During the two-year Program, Skenandore will meet with
leading Native decision-makers, national policymakers and international
dignitaries. She will develop and
implement a community-based initiative, explore family and tribal histories,
expand her knowledge of personal “medicine” (or inner strength), and gain a
more global perspective.
Skenandore enjoyed her week of training where she did
presentations on Oneida and learned about the other ambassadors’ communities.
“We did this family history project where we explained the
history of our tribe, and our community and our families and then talked about
the values,” she said. “To see how everyone else, like the obstacles they’ve
overcome and about their other tribes, has made me want to learn more about our
tribe, so I’m going to take some cultural classes at Cultural Heritage and then
try and take some language classes.”
Skenandore was recommended to the AIO program by an alumnus
Jennifer Hill-Kelly who used to work with Skenandore in the LRO. The intense
week of training and self-examination created a bond between the ambassadors
and other people involved in the program. The bond is heightened by the
participation of previous ambassadors to the program.
“It’s nice to see that the alumni come back every time. So
it’s not just your ambassadors, but it’s like a family. LaDonna Harris, we all
call her Momma LaDonna and she calls us all her children, so the people we
meet, they’re not like Jim or Bob, they’re like brother or sister,” said
The ambassadors will meet three more times, the next meeting
taking place overseas, over the two-year program.
thankful for the opportunity,” said Skenandore. “It’s just a really great
experience, very rewarding.”