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Inyan Walking Elk

In October of 2009 my daughter Timahel was born. When she was 3 months old I went back to my retail job. With another person to take care of and being the sole source of income for my family, I decided to stay on economic assistance and continued to work with employment services at the American Indian Family Center (AIFC) in St. Paul. Though I was extremely happy to have become a mother, I wanted more for my family and myself professionally. I continued to work into December 2010, all the while experiencing much personal strife.

On Dec. 2, 2010, I decided I could no longer just accept my life as it was. I made the decision to end my retail career and to pursue more ample opportunities. At the same time I had also decided to become a single mother.

I kept in touch with my employment counselor and others at the AIFC. I felt they truly understood my intentions in making the decisions that I made regarding my employment and my personal life. When an opportunity arose through a program in association with the state, appropriately named “Changing Lives,” I jumped at it.  

The opportunity was an interview for a temporary position at the Minnesota Department of Human Services. I prepared, did the interview and then didn’t get the position. I was bummed out, of course, but I knew there was still something out there for me. A couple of weeks later I received a call telling me that the original person they had hired for the position did not work out, and they wanted to offer me the job. I accepted, and even though I knew it was only temporary, I thought of the possibilities and committed myself 100 percent.

The position did a lot to help me to develop more skills and to further my development in administrative work. The team taught me everything that time allowed, and if I had the desire to know more we integrated that training into the schedule whenever possible. I was also assigned a mentor who offered everything from constructive criticism to beauty tips. Although I may not have used every bit of advice that I received, I recognized the success of these people demonstrated the valuable knowledge they had to offer.

It was through some of the team members at the department that I heard about possible administrative positions opening up at another state agency. Putting much of my new knowledge to work, I submitted my newly tweaked resume’ and prepared for an interview.

I now sit at a desk in the Department of Transportation’s Construction Office as the new office and administrative specialist at the senior level. I am proud of my successes, but I am not ready to stop yet. This winter I began a degree in business administration with an emphasis in pre-law and couldn’t be more excited. I intend to always learn from past mistakes, whether they belong to me or people close to me. Life threw me a lot of bricks, but, as David Brinkley said, “A successful [wo]man is one who can a lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at [her].”

Photograph of  Inyan  Walking Elk
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