Ashlen Delgado (Ogalala Sioux), has set her ambitions high by organizing a powwow for her senior project at Johnson Senior High in Saint Paul. Every year, students at Johnson must complete a senior project for their Finale class in order to graduate. The senior project is the capstone piece to the students’ high school careers. The project the students focus on must align with their career or educational goals, involve community help, or have a concentration on culture.
With the help of her mentor Travis DeCory, a Chemical Dependency Prevention Coordinator for the Ain Dah Yung Center, Delgado was awarded a $2,500 grant to fund the powwow.
Delgado and DeCory worked together to write a grant to the Tiwahe Foundation, (formally the American Indian Family Empowerment Program) in August 2010 asking for $1,600. Instead, they were awarded the full grant amount of $2,500 in October of 2010. DeCory has had previous experience with writing grants through his work and was confident that Delgado would receive the grant.
Delgado’s Finale teacher, Mary Voigt was both proud and relieved by Delgado’s grant approval and for wanting to share her culture with the rest of the school.
“Her American Indian ancestry is so important to her and she was so passionate when she talked about her powwow. It was really hard not to be excited for her,” said Voigt. “Success always breeds more success, so I think it could be a source of inspiration for her in her future.”
Delgado said she first got the idea to put on a powwow for her senior project from attending the Indian Education powwows around Saint Paul. She said another factor was the small population of Native students at her school. Delgado feels that the fact there are Native students at Johnson often gets overlooked due to more prominent cultures at the school.
“I want to educate the community and let them know that there’s Natives at Johnson because our Indian Ed is pretty small. It’s to let them know we’re here,” said Delgado.
Norman Benson, Chemical Health Specialist from Saint Paul Public Schools American Indian Education Program, was also supportive of Delgado’s plan and has offered her help for the event.
The American Indian Education Program's role is to assist and advise the Saint Paul Public School District in providing effective school programs and services for American Indian students. It is supervised by the district's Office of Professional Development.
“As an Indian Education teacher, I thought it was a very good idea and was enthused that she wants to honor her tradition and culture. That stood out to me and I was supportive,” said Benson.
Being involved with Ain Dah Yung and attending Saint Paul Indian Education has enabled Delgado to feel connected to her culture. She plans on donating any proceeds from the powwow to the Saint Paul Indian Education.
Delgado said, “I wanted to give something back because they’ve helped my family and I a lot. They’ve provided education help and they were always there when we needed it. Kind of like a family.”
Saint Paul Indian Education has remained one of Delgado’s top supporters through the planning process so far. They have offered to cover some of the worker’s composition and Secondary Cultural Teacher Jerry Dearly from the district’s Indian Education has agreed to M.C. for the powwow.
Putting on the event has helped her to create bonds within her community and helped her to build resources through those connections. She’s been able to secure posters from a local graphic artist.
“I’m a little more involved than what I was when I was little in the community. A lot of people are stepping in and helping. It’s kind of a relief,” said Delgado.
Delgado hopes to hold the powwow in April but says it’s still in the planning stages at the moment and she is currently looking for a Host Drum, vendors and volunteers. Her outlook for her senior project is positive and her supporters like DeCory are all helping to ensure her success.
DeCory said, “I have been in this line of work for over ten years and it is a rare occasion that you meet someone like Ashlen. She is one of the brightest young women I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Ashlen is going to be a leader in this community; this is not a question in my mind.”
Delgado said the event is a one day evening powwow but the date and where it will be held is still unconfirmed.
To volunteer for Ashlen Delgado’s Senior Project Powwow at Johnson Senior High, send an email to