Student Trip to DC: Day 3

On Tuesday April 25th, we all met at Union Station which is the main train station for the city and a bustling transportation and shopping center. We had some free time, so the students took advantage of the numerous souvenir shops, many of them ending up with brightly colored and fashionable “Washington DC” sweatshirts. Who can pass up a good 2 for 1 sale?

We weren’t able to attend Mass that day due to our busy schedule, so instead we walked over to St. Joseph Catholic Church for some quiet prayer time and journaling. After its recent renovation, it has become one of my favorite churches in the city, particularly for its starlit ceiling.

4094725243_2b82d79e0b_bphoto credit: Steve Brown (flickr)

St. Joseph is just across the street from the Hart Senate building, so many devout Catholics working on Capitol Hill attend Mass there. Conveniently, we popped across the street for our meeting with Senator Jon Tester of Montana.

The students were able to meet with Senator Tester for about 45 minutes, and he gave us a warm welcome. While I asked polite questions about his education and background prior to working in public office, the kids didn’t shy away from asking the tough questions! They wanted to know about the Dakota Access Pipeline, what he’s doing for the Native American communities in Montana, as well as what he thought of President Trump. His answers were surprisingly candid. He encouraged and challenged the students to realize that improving the lives of Native Americans on their reservations is up to them, the next generation, and that he will help them in any way he can. Our session ended with an official photograph with the Senator, which will be posted as soon as it’s received.


Our afternoon was just as exciting as the morning. From Capitol Hill, we travelled on the Metro to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. There we met Teresa Brockie, PhD, RN from Johns Hopkins University, who was born and raised in Hays, MT! I had contacted her just a few weeks before our trip, and she miraculously pulled together a panel of 3 other Native American scientists at the Institute.

Alec Calac (Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians) Post-Baccalaureate Fellow
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Loretta Grey Cloud, B.Sc. (Kul Wicasa Lakota and Hunkpati Dakota Nations) Post-Baccalaureate Fellow
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

Naomi Lee, PhD (Seneca Nation) NIH IRACDA Postdoctoral Fellow
University of New Mexico

Each scientist share with the students how they had ended up in the field of biomedical research. One went right through college into graduate school; one started out at a community college then transferred to a larger university; and another took a break for a few years to start a family before pursuing her Masters degree. It was wonderful for the students to hear about the perseverance with which these scientists achieved their goals.

One of the highlights was also hearing from Rita Devine, PhD about the summer internship at the National Institutes of Health. This paid internship is a training program for high school students interested in learning skills for scientific research and preparing for a career in the field of medicine. She gave quite a pitch because three students raised their hands when asked who would like to apply this fall! The students were left with the inspiring message “You can do this!”


To be continued!

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