Nov. 21—BEMIDJI — Though reluctant at first, Shaylynn Ostlund jumped at the opportunity to expand upon her leadership ability.
Voyageurs Expeditionary School
since last year, the junior attended a conference in the fall of 2022 that focused on success, teamwork, achievement, recognition and self-esteem.
As it turns out, such areas of focus spelled out the namesake of the conference and program for which Ostlund would lead:
According to its website, the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs — MAAP — oversees MAAP STARS as an organization designed for youth in alternative education settings, such as charter schools. The program focuses on leadership, development and career preparedness via conferences and other events.
Prior to starting at Voyageurs for the 2022-2023 school year, Ostlund attended Bemidji High School. During that time, Ostlund had friends who attended Voyageurs which appealed to her because of its smaller feel.
"My friends introduced me to Voyageurs and I thought 'It's a smaller school, I know people here and I have a family here,'" Ostlund said.
Kathy Skinner, Voyageurs' director of finance and operations, played a pivotal role in Ostlund's entrance into MAAP STARS once Ostlund found her niche at the school.
"Kathy approached me and told me about MAAP STARS," Ostlund said. "She was like 'I think you should give it a try.'"
After learning more about what the program entailed, Ostlund's run for a state representative position with MAAP STARS naturally fell into place.
"I decided I was going to take this opportunity and see how far I could go with it," Ostlund recalled. "After I got into it, I actually liked it and thought it was something that helped me be more social with people and helped me with my academic skills. It's given me a pretty big role in school and it keeps me busy."
Among her added responsibilities as a state representative, Ostlund noted her intentions to not only represent her school and MAAP STARS, but also other Indigenous people as a
Red Lake Nation
She also hopes to spread awareness for murdered and missing Indigenous women as well as those affected by fentanyl use. Ostlund's aunt, Shalyssa, passed away in April, adding another layer to her motivation to lead.
"I really want my auntie's name to be out there and to spread awareness of what (fentanyl) can do to our people," Ostlund added, "and to have more say on her name because she deserves that. She pushed me a lot last year.
"I feel this would give me a really great opportunity to get my name out there and to get more recognition on these things because they're not recognized enough."
Having returned from a leadership training at the beginning of November, Ostlund has already honed what she's learned by planning for the future.
After graduation, she noted tentative plans to work at Oshkiimaajitahdah in Redby where her mother also works. At a certain point, she would like to pursue veterinary science.
No matter which direction she heads, she aims to represent herself and her culture in a positive light as she continues her journey into leadership with MAAP STARS.
"It's really made me more confident and has boosted my self-esteem," Ostlund left off. "It's just uplifted me in a lot of ways."
More information on MAAP STARS can be found at