Jones-Bowman Leadership Award Program turns 10!

Happy birthday Jones-Bowman! Established in 2007 by the Foundation, the Jones-Bowman Leadership Award Program continues to help develop leaders who are making a significant difference. Jones-Bowman Fellowships are awarded to undergraduate college and university students who are enrolled EBCI members.

Carmaleta Monteith, advisory board member and founding member, recalled the genesis of the program. “Back in 2005, there was a deep concern about people not volunteering. We discovered more than a dozen youth groups doing that, but the groups were dwindling—that was the initial reason the Foundation started funding Jones-Bowman.”

Jones-Bowman is named for Principal Chief Leon Jones and Mr. Jim Bowman—founding members of the Board of Directors of the Foundation. Participants in the program (called Fellows) are selected for their leadership potential and desire to serve the community. Each Fellow receives funding up to $4,000 annually for a possible four years. It’s expected that Fellows will complete a four-year degree, while maintaining a 3.0 GPA after the first year.

Kevin Jackson was a member of the first Jones-Bowman group. After eight years in the military, including serving in Afghanistan, he was working at the local hospital but understood the difficulties of the local job market. He knew going back to school was his best option.

After he was accepted, he completed his degree in business management at Montreat and then a Masters in Environmental Science from the University of Alabama. A serial entrepreneur, he is also the IT Manager for the EBCI.

“When I was in the military people wanted to know about my people and I didn’t know—I was embarrassed,” said Kevin. “The lessons I learned by being a Jones-Bowman Fellow gave me the cultural background to embrace and acknowledge who I am.”

Kelsey Standingdeer-Owle is a Jones-Bowman alumna and a current mentor. Her experience in the program opened her world to travel, changed her perspective, and allowed her to develop her own leadership skills. She’s now a Cherokee Central School’s middle school counselor.

“The students I am mentoring now are teaching me patience and how to be a better person,” said Kelsey. “I want to give them the tools to be the best person they can be—they are our future.”

Chloe Blythe, a current Fellow attending Queens University in Charlotte, is majoring in marketing and hopes to go into sports marketing after college. This is her second year in the program, and she realizes the opportunities that have come her way.

“I’ve been so encouraged to get involved with other organizations in a leadership role. Now I’m on the executive board of my sorority in charge of memberships, and I’ve learned so much about how to hold people accountable without being a dictator,” she explained. “Truthfully I would not have taken on that level of responsibility before this program.”

The funding she’s received thus far has helped her pay for travel to conferences representing the EBCI on a national level, including trips to AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) as a Region 7 student representative. While there she received the Sequoyah Fellow Award from AISES board chair Rick Stephens, a national honor.

Chloe advises EBCI students to apply to the program even if they don’t fully understand it. “Once you get involved you realize how many people are there to help. Alicia and our mentors help keep us grounded. Also having so many mentors who are younger and older who know what we’re going through is really important.”

Alicia Jacobs is special initiatives director of the Jones-Bowman Leadership Award Program. Since its inception, she notes that one third of the 45 students enrolled have graduated from the program, and some 60 percent have returned to Cherokee and actively serve the community. About a quarter of the students have returned as mentors, and many have received Masters degrees, with a couple pursuing doctorate programs.

“As I look back at the list of people who’ve come through I see how passionate they are about being selfless and giving back. We need to continue the generational impact, and keep stepping up to leadership positions. I want our Fellows to represent us at a national level, then come back to the Qualla Boundary to fill leadership positions in our workforce, generating an economic impact that will bring us full circle.”

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