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Student of the Month Shye Johnson, Meskwaki Settlement School’s first state cross-country athlete

“I want to be a good role model for the younger people,” Johnson said.
Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 7:27 AM CST
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TAMA, Iowa (KCRG) - Seventeen-year-old Shye Johnson is used to balancing. She’s going to school in a pandemic, while also helping her younger siblings, ages five and seven, with their online lessons. She’s also learning the Meskwaki language, along with her other curriculum at the Meskwaki Settlement School.

“It’s really important because it’s how we speak with our elders,” she said.

Johnson is also a year-round athlete. She played volleyball and ran cross-country during the same season, doing a practice for each sport every day.

She became the Meskwaki Settlement School’s very first person to qualify for the state cross-country meet last fall. An experience her coach, Tracy Sienknecht, who started the school’s cross-country program 10 years ago, was there for every step of the way.

“She would do enough to make sure she went above and beyond, to make sure she gave 100 percent with her family, with her schoolwork, with her athletics and within herself,” Sienknecht said. “She’s just willing to work with you to make herself better and make Meskwaki stand out a little bit more.”

Currently, Johnson is playing basketball, getting ready for track, and then softball. But she’s much more than a student-athlete.

She’s been a member of Unity, a Native American Council group, for three years, where she met the first Native American astronaut. Shye also led an Earth Day clean up event, picking up three full bags of trash around the highway. Making a difference in her family, school, and community, as she gets ready for her senior year and future plans.

“I think she has a lot of things to look forward to next year, a lot of things,” said Sienknecht.

“I have traditions and stuff that I go by,” said Johnson. “I know that I always have a home here, and I can come back and help my community.”

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