Interning With USDA: WINS Students
By Misty Leilani Cordeiro
One way for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to teach younger generations about how it protects and safeguards agricultural resources is by supporting internship programs such as American University’s Washington Internships for Native Students (WINS) program. WINS brings college students of American Indian, Native Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian heritage to live in Washington, D.C., and intern at various agencies.
During their internships, students gain valuable professional experience and participate in the area’s many activities. This summer, USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS), based in Riverdale, Maryland, hosted five WINS interns. Each intern had a different Tribal or cultural affiliation, and each had a different educational focus. They fanned out across APHIS programs to learn about and contribute to the APHIS mission.
Jake Pikula (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians) worked with APHIS’ Biotechnology Regulatory Services program to help effectively communicate information about genetically modified organisms to Native audiences. Jake said he appreciated the opportunity WINS gives students to step outside their comfort zones. While at APHIS, he has explored career opportunities he had not considered.
Kayla Hunter (Cherokee Nation) worked in APHIS’ Policy and Program Development program, combing through environmental assessments as well as environmental impact statements to ensure public transparency. Kayla gained new perspectives while in the Washington area and especially enjoyed learning more about her own Tribe.
Shaina Johnson (Oglala Lakota Nation) worked with the Agency’s Ergonomics program, which helps safeguard employee health by providing onsite evaluations and making recommendations to provide employees with a favorable work environment and experience. She attended a conference in Alabama with her supervisor and visited the National Detector Dog Training Center in Atlanta, where she saw how dogs are trained to help protect agricultural resources. Shaina hopes to use her newly acquired skills into her future profession as a doctor.
Bryan Manycattle (Navajo Nation) worked with APHIS’ International Services program, focusing on the Middle East and North Africa. He researched heavily and reviewed the regional agricultural statistics and portfolios of many countries to aid importing and exporting policy. Bryan is excited about returning home and sharing what he has learned during his internship with his family and community.
Misty Cordeiro, who is part Native Hawaiian, assisted staff in APHIS’ Legislative and Public Affairs (LPA) program by producing videos, writing newsletters and developing blog posts. Misty became familiar with animals, plants, and public affairs processes, as LPA works with all branches within APHIS.
Living in the Nation’s capital provided a wealth of sightseeing and networking opportunities. All of the interns count the opportunity to live in Washington, D.C., as a highlight of their WINS experience and value the opportunity it provided for connecting with other Native American students. All look back on their experiences with WINS and with APHIS as a worthwhile opportunity that will help them reach their future goals.
Bryan says it best: “I can’t really say there are low points, but a lot of high points. Each day brings new opportunities and teachings that I learn and carry with me on my travels in life. WINS and USDA have given me a great opportunity to fulfill my quest in life to someday be a great leader and help my community.”