Native American student wins fellowship awards

By Gloria Carr

NIU graduate student Jim LeBlanc, who recently won two fellowship awards, said Native Americans face many challenges growing up on a reservation.

LeBlanc is from the Ojibway tribe and grew up in the Bay Mills Community, a reservation in Michigan. He recently won the Jeffrey T. Lunsford Fellowship and the Minority Fellowship award from the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.

The Lundsford fellowship is given to recipients who have shown outstanding scholarly achievement. The American Association fellowship was established in 1986 and has awarded 15 fellowships. LeBlanc will attend the association’s convention in October.

“A lot of times you are in competition with the state to get self-sufficent … growing up in a situation like that can be challenging,” Le Blanc said.

The community has been meeting those challenges by changing its philosophy, he added. People are expressing their needs to the government instead of having programs thrown at them and having them fail, he said.

LeBlanc works at the Family Center, operated by NIU’s human and family resources department. He received the fellowships last spring.

LeBlanc said there are many issues facing Native Americans today. “For me personally, it’s getting to a point you are able to help. I feel that is what I am preparing for.”

Although LeBlanc said he doesn’t particularly like school, he enjoys the people and the program he is involved in.

“It is sometimes jumping through hoops that takes you away from what you want to do … it is not a true test of the reality of the world,” he said.

He graduated from Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and was a student leader in the Native American organization there.

LeBlanc has worked at such jobs as a contractor and lay minister. “There’s a lot of things you have to do in a place like that in order to survive,” he said.

LeBlanc plans to graduate next May and return to Bay Mills and start a counseling practice.