By: Mercedes Dunn/Media Intern
By: Shayln Proctor/Reporter
WASHINGTON D.C.- Jaylon Romine (Mvskoke) is currently a senior at Haskell Indian Nation University (HINU) and will be graduating in the spring of 2024. He is majoring in art in Indigenous and American Indian studies. He received his Associate of Arts in Social Work in 2022 from HINU. He interned at Washington D.C. this past summer and has received the Haskell Brave for 2023.
Romine is a 2023 Native American congressional intern with the Udall foundation. Last summer he worked as an assistant secretary for Indian Affairs with the U.S. Department of Interior after winning the Haskell Braves pageant.
Romine serves as a junior class representative for the student government association. He also serves as the secretary for the Phi Sigma Nu fraternity, and as a secretary for the society for advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). He is currently a work study at the warehouse on campus.
Other clubs Romine is involved in include the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) club and stickball club. He was also involved with track in the fall of 2022. Last spring he received an internship with the Kansas State House Department of Aging and Disability services in Topeka. Romine is also an honor student, and has recently received the president’s honor roll this past semester.
Haskell Brave experience
During the process of winning the Haskell Brave pageant there were certain requirements that HINU needed to be met. “We had to do talent and traditional talent, I never grew up singing or dancing. I was raised more Creek Baptist and I was raised more in the churches, so I told a story for my traditional talent,” Romine said.
It was different for Romine to be on stage trying to win a pageant. “It was a really unique experience, but I’m glad I was able to have the opportunity and come out on top,” Romine said.
Romine did not grow up in traditional Mvskoke culture. His grandparents attended the Chilocco boarding school. His grandmother was Mvskoke and Chickasaw, and his grandfather was Kiowa. Romine’s grandparents met at the Chilocco boarding school, a place where they were discouraged from practicing their culture.
“I think that’s kind of the reason why they stepped away from our Creek traditional values and they were just more focused on the Bible, living a Christian way of life,” Romine said.
As a young child Romine attended a Creek Baptist church. Later on he attended a Pentecostal church in Eufaula with his mother. “I wouldn’t say I’m reconnecting because I was raised up until six or seven in a traditional Creek Baptist church, but I still don’t know the other side of the ceremonial grounds. I kind of lean towards those values instead of the Creek Baptist values and I’m still figuring that out,” Romine said.
Romine has been part of the substance abuse awareness and prevention program at HINU for four years. According to Romine, most of the school’s freshmen came from rural areas like Eufaula, Morris or Okmulgee.
“They’re just young and they are used to either the ‘rez’ way or a rural way. They come to Lawrence and it’s a huge college party town and I’ve just seen so many young bright Indigenous students come to have a little bit too much fun with that party college life,” Romine said. “I’m not condemning them but I just want to show you can still have fun but as long as you got your priorities straight and doing hard work in college but don’t have too much fun.”
Romine’s platform is to help students that are dealing with these struggles. According to Romine, this is a problem that can be found in any school, it is not exclusive to Haskell. Likewise, issues like addiction are issues that students may have grown up around and develop themselves later in life.
Romine has had his fair share of struggles as well. He struggled with substance abuse in high school, however has since become clean while attending HINU. He wants fellow students to see his journey, and how he has been able to turn his life around from addiction.
“It’s all about how you bounce back, you work hard enough you can pull yourself up out of trauma and addiction then maybe come to D.C. one day as an intern. I just want to show younger kids that you can.” Romine said.
Romine wants to launch a program that addresses and assists those with mental health issues. He envisions it as a safe space for students to speak on personal issues, and not feel out of place or judged.
When Romine first started attending HINU he knew it was a place where he belonged. “It’s just taken me to so many great places that it’s probably the best decision I have ever made was coming to Haskell,” Romine said.
Romine’s internship application took three months to complete. When he got the call back for an interview with the Udall Foundation, he knew they liked his application. He attributes his interview’s success to former mentors and mock trials.
The Udall Foundation is a congressional internship that is funded by the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy.
According to the foundation’s website, “The Udall Foundation was established by the U.S. Congress in 1992 as an independent executive branch agency to honor Morris K. Udall’s lasting impact on this nation’s environment, public lands, and natural resources, and his support of the rights and self-governance of American Indians and Alaska Natives,”
In total, the foundation hosts twelve Indigenous student interns. Each intern was split into different sections including the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and the White House, according to Romine.
Although the internship can be overwhelming at times, Romine realized he could handle the pressure. “This past summer it showed that I can compete with these kids from Harvard and these kids from Columbia,” Romine said. “This is what a Mvskoke person is made of, this is what we can do.”
Although he initially wanted to study social work, Romine’s interests have pivoted to law. He intends to start law school by the fall of 2024.
Romine has found belonging and purpose in his current collegiate endeavors, however he does not believe it is the right fit for everyone.
“Haskell is just a great opportunity, it’s affordable,” Romine said. “But you don’t have to go through college just because people are telling you to.”
Romine ultimately encourages others to stay true to your beliefs and do not let anyone prevent you from pursuing your passions.