On a July afternoon, a group of high school Juniors from Samueli Academy in California huddled around their laptops to meet Lisa Brunner, a member of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation and a long-term community partner of Xperitas. Lisa has worked in the domestic violence and sexual assault field for 20 years, and connected with Xperitas through her work at the White Earth Tribal and Community College. Though the students originally intended to spend a week in northern Minnesota building relationships and collaborating on community led projects as part of their Xperitas Community Partnership Program, their travel plans had been dashed by COVID-19. Given the unique circumstances, their group leader, Adrienne, collaborated with Xperitas to design a virtual experience to complement the students’ summer internships.
Since 2016, Adrienne has been making cross-cultural experiences accessible for Samueli Academy students with Xperitas.
Pictured: Samueli Academy students outside the Indian Shaker Church in 2016 in Quileute Nation
Over the course of a couple weeks, the Samueli Academy students participated in a series of virtual sessions facilitated by Xperitas that helped deepen their understanding of White Earth Nation and present-day challenges faced by indigenous communities.
These are the components of the virtual Program:
On a typical Xperitas program, pre-departure preparation is vital, helping students understand the context of the community they are visiting. Even though these students would be engaging online, preprogram preparation was equally important for the Samueli group. Xperitas directed students to community-produced content including podcast interviews with elders, the Ojibwe creation story, White Earth’s newsletter Anishinaabeg Today, and more to give them historical and present-day background on White Earth Nation.
Session 1: Building Interview Skills
Students then participated in an interactive session where they read Lisa Brunner’s biography and designed their own questions for her as a group. Xperitas guided students through an interview preparation activity to arrange their questions into a cohesive interview. Some of the questions they developed included: “Where did your interest come from in being an advocate for Native women and human trafficking?” and “How did you work your way up to working on this at a national level and what impact has that made on the country and you personally?”
"It helped organize the interview. It increased the students participation" Adrienne, Group Leader
Session 2: Community Partner Interview
In the second session, the students met Lisa Brunner and took turns leading various aspects of the interview including introducing their group, asking questions, and thanking Lisa for her time. The combination of Lisa’s expertise and the students’ engagement made it possible for a hearty and educational discussion to ensue. Topics included the history of colonization of indigenous peoples, the present reality of historical trauma, and how non-Native Americans can educate themselves and, in turn, become better allies for indigenous people.
"I found it very beneficial when Lisa was talking about how she got to where she is and everything they have to face. It made me want to look deeper into things."
Student, Samueli Academy
Session 3: Guided Group Reflection
Though there wasn’t an opportunity to facilitate a separate reflection session with the Samueli Academy group, Xperitas believes that reflection is a key ingredient of cross-cultural learning. In fact, on Community Partnership Programs, trained Xperitas Team Leaders facilitate daily group reflection and individual journaling reflection with students. We know that giving students the opportunity to share their perspectives with their peers in a safe space can help them process their experience and extract deeper learnings from it.
If you are interested in connecting your students with our indigenous community partners for virtual sessions, please contact Brooke Marchewka at email@example.com.