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“A Walk in Their Shoes” DECEMBER 16TH, 2013


Starting with the right foot What better way to start learning about U.S. history than to witness a conference during veteran´s day! We went back in time and stepped out of our own realities for two hours and walked in the shoes of the code talker himself: Chester Nez. We heard his story and how he and other 28 code talkers helped assure victory for the United States over Japan in the South Pacific during WWII. No one in the audience could ever fill in those shoes. I will never be so close to history as I was that day.

Veteran´s Day Tribute. Chester Nez, the last living Navajo code talker

An inspiring story about a native American who faced discrimination, injustice and survival, who felt love, patriotism and courage. Even to me , a total outsider of this country, it felt personal, it was not my war, nor my beliefs, I wasn´t even born yet, and it still

felt personal because it was a lesson about life not about war, a lesson on how to make decisions, how to face your reality, about team work and not giving up. One of his answers to a questions from the audience: “It was an honor to serve my country and to have come out alive. Even at this age. If I´m asked to do it again, I will”. My batteries were recharged for life by this small man that just happens to have the biggest heart, with an awesome story that made history.

Visiting rotarían @ Stevens Point Rotary Club Being a Rotarian myself, former secretary to my home club: “Club Rotario Las Brumas Jinotega”, it was a must to visit the local rotary club meeting. I was invited by Mr. Terrald Arnold, past president of the Rotary Club of Stevens Point . A meeting in which the Stevens Point mayor was a guest speaker (now that was different from where I come from). A club under the leadership of a women as president, with half the members, female, and filled with Rotarian spirit. I learned about their volunteer work, their projects, and their enthusiasm for helping others in need right there at home and abroad. It is simply a nice rewarding feeling to be a Rotarian.

Stevens Point Rotary Club President Ann Huntoon at Stevens Point Country Club


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Experiencing politics in the making

Portage County Democratic Party. Executive board meeting at Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

Although I was able to identify a few administrative similarities, certainly the ways the USA does politics is different from how is done in Nicaragua. I was impressed to see the assembly representative´s assistant account for the work the democratic reps do at the state capi-

tol and for the county as well. There was an announcement on senate bill 274, and how rare it is for a bill introduced by a Democrat to pass both houses controlled by Republicans. It was also interesting how a regular citizen just took the microphone and announced he would be running for office in spring election (non-partisan). Back at home, we do things differently. On the other hand, it was inspiring to hear Mrs. Barb Gifford, a retired business owner and an environmental protection advocate for the Little Plover River. Lesson learned: if I want to make a difference, I can´t just sit around and criticize. I have to become more engaged in my community and try to develop a holistic plan to improve its conditions.

Learning and Owning it: Women empowerment and leadership. Experiencing cultural perspectives and opportunities for women in the United States was the most enjoyable part of this fellowship for me. Why? Simply because where I come from, there are little opportunities for women, even less opportunities if you´re over 40+. I met with community leaders that were mentors to me: Portage County Executive Pattie Dreier, Representative to the State Assembly Katrina Shankland, Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners Director Amy Wiza, School of Health Promotion & Human Development staff Lisa Ebert, , UWSP Spanish Teacher Anna Runnion, UWSP Emergency Management Specialist Corrina Neeb, small business manager Lori Terril, Stevens Point Fire Department Chief Tracey Kujawa, SPASH Hispanic/Native American

history teacher Elizabeth Anderson, former teachers Judy Ordens & Marilyn Slusarsky, and the most inspiring lesson came from Kaylee Jisko an 8year old that was sensible to the fact that kids in Nicaragua lacked school supplies and was able to raise awareness and came up with her very own backpack project. It doesn´t matter where you live, women always face challenges to find that balance between a happy family life and a successful professional career. But I found key common elements in all my mentors: the passion for what they believe in and the perseverance and determination to achieve it. I am specially thankful to all of

these women for letting me know that I am not alone and that, yes we can, we are able to achieve our goals without feeling guilty when trying to raise a family while ac hievi ng professi onal growth. Lesson learned: best practices for developing and supporting women as leaders.

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Wisconsin Assembly at the State Capitol

So there I am, under the dome, sitting at the west wing gallery witnessing my very first state assembly, trying to overcome the vertigo due to my fear of heights. First order of business: a prayer to the Lord asking for guidance and, then, the unique expression of loyalty to the flag of the United States: the pledge of allegiance.

Top: Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison: Its dome is an exact replica to the U.S. capitol dome in DC.

Right: Meeting with Katrina Shankland, a 27 yr democrat representative to the state assembly.

Before the agenda began, there were several announcements made by the representatives who where called out by the assembly speaker not by their names but by their seat chart number, and, oh yes, all of the sudden I hear my name! There she was, Katrina Shankland announcing my participation in the legislative fellowship program and my interest in learning about civic participation in the law making process in the different government levels. I have to say it: it was cool. It was indeed a very organized and long meeting with an extensive agenda. It ended about 2 am. This experience was more signifi-

cant to me because of Katrina Shankland, how young she is, and what she stands for and what she believes in. She is a very eloquent, educated, young politician who I learned a lot from. She is the author of senate bill 274 that passed both houses controlled by Republicans. This bill will help 5,700 people with disabilities to find work through career guidance and training, job placement and transportation. Kudos to her on this achievement. Thank you Annika L. Petty for arranging my visit to the Wisconsin Capitol Assembly.

Identifying my leadership skills

Rhinelander, Wisconsin Jeff Smith. Regional Political Director. Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Eric Couto . Program Director. Wisconsin Progress ason Sidener. Member Mobilization Coordinator. Wisconsin Council 40 AFSCME

My passion for progressive values like economic and social justice and my concern about my community has driven me to think about the possibility of someday running for local office in my country. This was the place to be for identifying those leadership skills required for the job: the candidate training workshop. One on one training from the sponsors on the left on how to craft a campaign plan that suits a candidate´s abilities, their schedules and their community. Even though the political structure is different between Nicara-

gua and the USA, I was able to learn how to coordinate a strategy, fund raise, hire team staff , identify volunteers, and to work on how to build an infrastructure that can support my ideas. Everything from how to successful manage a campaign to track donations, from finance reporting to campaign messaging. Having a project management background, it all became so relatable to me. I came out of that workshop feeling empowered because I felt reassured I have what it takes to be a leader but most importantly I now have the tools to make it happen.


Wisconsin River. The most worked river in the USA. Along its banks are hundreds of paper mills Special thanks for their hospitality to: Tom & Judy Ordens Patrick Sinnot & Mary Vills Donald & Marilyn´s Slusarsky Brian & Amy Wiza Dr. Mike Curtis & Sandy Curtis Wisconsin Nicaragua Partners' staff, volunteers & board members. Anna Runnion & Rosalind Kealiher.

A walk in their shoes  
A walk in their shoes