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Success Stories

Proud of Our Graduates!

Leech Lake Tribal College has made a big difference in so many lives, helping students achieve their true potential and reach a level of achievement they may not have thought possible. Here are a few inspirational success stories that are indicative of what our graduates can accomplish.

Bill Badboy (2006)

Construction Electricity Program

Bill Badboy

When Bill Badboy came to Leech Lake Tribal College in 2004, he was at a crossroads in his life. He had struggled with alcohol abuse, had some run-ins with the law, and wasn’t able to keep a job. He realized that getting an education was his best option for making a better path for himself, so he enrolled in LLTC’s Construction Electricity program.

Bill’s intelligence and ability became apparent early on, and instructors encouraged him to apply for a summer internship following his first year to further develop his talent. Bill was able to secure a very highly sought-after internship with NASA at the Microdevices Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. During the 12-week internship, he so impressed his supervisors that they told him that a job would be waiting for him once he completed his degree.

Badboy returned to LLTC, completed the Construction Electricity program and made the big move out west. “There were times before I got an education that I lived in a place that didn’t even have hot water. Now I have a house with a hot tub!” Badboy recalls with a laugh. “I owe it all to my time at Leech Lake Tribal College. They put me on a good path and opened all the right doors for me.”

Charles Dolson

Liberal Education - STEM (2009)

Charles Dolson

Charles Dolson’s story is different from that of many Leech Lake Tribal College graduates. When Charles came to college, he already had a solid job in law enforcement and was providing a good living for his family. But Charles felt that he wasn’t making as big an impact on his community as he could, and wasn’t putting his skills and intelligence to their best use.

Charles immediately became a campus leader, working as a peer tutor in LLTC’s award-winning Learning Center among other campus activities. According to Charles, his time at LLTC was a personal awakening. “Growing up on the Red Lake Reservation, I really bought into some of the negative stereotypes society has about Native Americans,” Dolson recalls. “Leech Lake Tribal College was amazingly good at showing the great potential that Native Americans truly have, and that I have.”

After completing his degree at LLTC, Dolson went on to earn his Bachelor’s degree from Bemidji State University. His hard work and intellect led to a full scholarship to the St. Thomas University School of Law, where he graduated Spring 2014. Charles just began a new position with the Red Lake Band of Chippewa as Executive Director.

Kevin Locke

Indigenous Leadership (2010)

Kevin Locke

In a recent Leech Lake Tribal College Alumni meeting, Kevin Locke was asked where he thought he would be today had he not made the decision to attend college here. Without any hesitation, Kevin answered, “I’d be dead. There’s no question about it.

When Kevin came to LLTC, he was in his late 40s, homeless, addicted and lost. The story of how his life changed is a shining example of the power of the LLTC experience.

After decades away from any educational system, Kevin was understandably very nervous about the prospect of attending college. He says that LLTC’s commitment to supporting its students, its family atmosphere, and its way of weaving Anishinaabe values into its classes allowed him to find success at a point in his life when he had almost given up.

Kevin remembers, “When I came to LLTC, I was ‘couch surfing,’ you know? Nowhere to sleep, didn’t know where my next meal was coming from... I was a mess. Learning my history and my language gave me pride in being an Anishinaabe man, and gave me hope that I could make a good life.”

A charismatic guy with a ready laugh, Kevin was elected as Treasurer of the LLTC Student Senate, and graduated in 2010 with a degree in Indigenous Leadership. He then went on to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Museum Studies from the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, NM in 2013. Kevin now works with the Leech Lake Heritage Sites program, identifying and protecting historical cultural resources. His goal is to work in a museum focusing on Native American art and culture.

In the case of Kevin Locke, Leech Lake Tribal College did more than just transform a life; it may have saved one.

Leila Jones

Class of 2011 - Liberal Education

Leila Jones

Those who aren’t familiar with the Tribal College movement sometimes wonder why these institutions are needed when large state colleges and universities already exist. Leila Jones is a perfect example of the crucial role played by Leech Lake Tribal College.

Leila enrolled at Bemidji State University after high school–twice–and wasn’t able to make it work either time. Leila was left with a string of bad grades and a significant amount of student debt to pay off, with not much to show for it.

Rather than giving up, Leila enrolled at Leech Lake Tribal College after being encouraged by a close friend who was already attending. The small, close-knit campus and supportive staff and faculty gave Leila the confidence she needed to grow, both academically and personally.

Leila became a terrific leader, serving on LLTC’s Student Senate and tutoring students in the Learning Center. She was elected by her peers as the Great Lakes Region representative to the American Indian Higher Education Consortium’s Student Congress.

After graduating from Leech Lake Tribal College, Leila was armed with the knowledge, skills and confidence she needed to take another shot at a four-year degree. She once again enrolled at Bemidji State University, and this time, prepared by her LLTC education, Leila found success. During her previous stint at BSU, Leila had taken a Physical Science class and received an F for her grade. This time around, she retook the same class with the same professor ... and earned an A!

Leila graduated from BSU in 2013 with a degree in Chemistry and a cumulative GPA of 3.86. She secured an internship at a local pharmacy and is now enrolled in a Master’s program in Public Health. After completing her Master’s program, she plans to enroll in a doctoral program with the goal of becoming a Pharmacist and working in tribal communities.

When asked about the role LLTC played in her personal and academic growth, Leila simply says, “Leech Lake Tribal College gave me the tools I needed to succeed in life.”

This incredible before-and-after story shows the life-changing value of a Leech Lake Tribal College education.

Leslie Harper

Liberal Education (2005)

Leslie Harper

Leslie Harper graduated from Leech Lake Tribal College in 2006 and promptly set out to change the world. While many young college graduates start out with lofty goals, few are able to have the success and impact on their community that Leslie has had. Here are a few of her accomplishments in the seven short years since graduating from LLTC:

  • Co-founded the award-winning Niigaane Ojibwemowin Immersion School.
  • In 2009,the Niigaane school received the National Indian Education Association’s Cultural Freedom Award for “extraordinary and courageous work that celebrates the right to freedom of Native language, culture and educational excellence.”
  • Leslie was named the 2012 Outstanding Administrator by the Minnesota Indian Education Association.
  • To top it off, Leslie won an Emmy Award for her contribution to the documentary “First Speakers: Restoring the Ojibwe Language.

That’s a remarkable career arc, but it wasn’t always easy. “I had been out of school for eight years – I was 25 when I enrolled at Leech Lake Tribal College,” says Harper. “I was tired of working low-paying retail jobs, things that I just didn’t have a passion for, things that weren’t making a difference.”

Leslie remembers being very intimidated by the prospect of enrolling in college. “My parents each had a little bit of college, but I really didn’t have anyone to guide me. I didn’t understand the financial aid system, didn’t know what classes I needed to take. It was scary.”

Like so many alumni, Leslie credits the welcoming, supportive atmosphere of Leech Lake Tribal College for giving her the confidence to enroll and succeed. “I’m so thankful for the college, and I’m just a big fan of LLTC.”

Robert Budreau Jr.

Liberal Education and Business Management (2010)

Robert Budreau Jr.

To say that Robert Budreau Jr. faced obstacles in achieving his educational goals would be a sizeable understatement. A father of six children, Robert had been out of the educational system for more than a decade following high school. Problems with alcohol abuse and chronic unemployment meant Robert wasn’t able to provide the life he wanted for his children, and he knew he needed to make a change.

“I realized that if I was ever going to have an opportunity for anything besides menial, minimum-wage jobs that I needed an education,” Robert remembers. “I wanted so much more for my kids than what I was able to give them, and that led me to Leech Lake Tribal College.”

Like many LLTC students, Robert knew little about his culture when he came to the college. Robert says the cultural and language education gave him the strength and direction he needed to quit drinking, and the computer, communications and business classes he took gave him the foundation he needed to pursue a better job.

Robert graduated in 2009 with a degree in Business Management, and in 2010 completed a degree in Liberal Education. He then went on to Bemidji State University to complete a four-year Business degree. Most importantly, the education and skills Robert learned at Leech Lake Tribal College allowed him to secure a job as Operations Manager for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe’s Solid Waste Management program. Robert has also become a leader in many “green” environmental initiatives on and around the Leech Lake Reservation.

“I’m proud to have a challenging job that is helping my people,” Robert says. “I’m proud to have a job where I can hold my head high and give a good life for my children. It wouldn’t have happened without Leech Lake Tribal College. It’s as simple as that.”