Wyoming Indian students spend the summer working to keep busy and earn money

(Riverton, Wyo.) – While most 16 year olds are spending their summer sleeping the day away, Kianna Wallowing Bull is learning how to make the perfect bed.

Wanting to earn extra money and not spend the summer bored at home, Wallowing Bull wanted to find a job. Through a counselor at Wyoming Indian High School, where she will be a senior this coming fall, Wallowing Bull learned of a summer program that helps students find employment. Now, Wallowing Bull is working at the Wind River Hotel and Casino as a hotel housekeeper.

Being her first job, Wallowing Bull didn’t know what to expect. Working eight hour shifts to make sure each room is perfect; Wallowing Bull is learning the value of hard work.

“It keeps me busy,” Wallowing Bull said. “Nothing gets handed to you. You have to work for it.”

Since starting, Wallowing Bull said, she has learned how to better communicate with others and how work can also be fun if you have a positive attitude. Being able to make a bed professionally is also a skill she uses at home.

“I go home and make everyone’s beds,” Wallowing Bull said with a laugh.

Since last year, the Wind River Hotel and Casino has worked with local schools to find students who are looking for a summer job. This year, Human Resources Assistant Manager April Goggles said, 15 students were selected to work in hotel housekeeping, Black Mountain Embroidery, Blue Sky Laundry, Ethete Store and the different deli’s.

The summer youth program will run for six weeks with each student working between 20 to 40 hours a week depending on work load and manager approval. After the six weeks are over, Goggles said, each manager has the option of keeping a student to work during the school year. Students must maintain a certain GPA, have a good work performance and communicate with their managers in order to maintain their employment throughout the year.

Through the program, Goggles said, students are learning skills that will serve them well in the workplace and also in the classroom.

“It shows them that this is something that they can do,” she said.

In addition to the youth program, Wind River also collaborates with the State of Wyoming Workforce Investment Act, Northern Arapaho Vocation Rehabilitation and other various tribal and state programs to provide positive work opportunities for their clients.

Being the largest employer in Fremont County, Assistant General Manager Andrea Clifford said, it’s important for Wind River to support a program that will help the youth flourish in their first employment experience.

“The youth are our future,” she said. “We want the youth to be as successful as possible right from the start of their employment journey.”

For Camille Whiteman, a senior at St. Stephens High School, that road has already begun.

Working in Human Resources, Whiteman, 16, spends her days filing paperwork, answering phones and assisting with payroll. Starting out shy, Whiteman said, she feels more comfortable speaking to others and helping out where she is needed.

Holding her first pay check is an experience Whiteman is looking forward to.

“Because I know that I earned it,” she said.