Shockley '06 wins congressional internship

by Karla Kingsley | 4/10/03 5:00am

Arriving back at the College from spring training in Tennessee with Dartmouth's crew team on March 24, Melanie Joy Shockley '06 paid a routine visit to her Hinman Box. Inside, she found an acceptance letter to the Morris K. Udall Native American Congressional Internship program, a prestigious summer position on Capitol Hill, where she will work alongside Representative Mark Udall (CO-D) on environmental and Native American issues.

Only 12 students nationwide are chosen for the internship, and the online application says applicants must be at least juniors in college, and that law and grad student applications would be welcomed as well.

So when a woman from the Udall Foundation contacted Shockley urging her to apply for the internship, "I was like, 'why not?'" Shockley said, adding that she hadn't expected to get the internship. "Not when my application was in a pile of law students'."

When she opened the letter from the Udall Foundation, Shockley first saw the word, "congratulations." Then she folded the letter and walked outside before opening it again.

"I wanted to sit somewhere are read where I wouldn't have strange Hop smells drifting in and out," she explained. "I like to prolong these happy moments."

Receiving the acceptance letter was the second significant award for Shockley this year. In February, she was named the "Future Leader of the Year" by Doyon Limited, a corporation where, as a member of the Koyukor Athabascan Native American tribe, she is a shareholder.

"Sadly, I don't get any money for it," Shockley said, laughing. "But it was just what I needed." Doyon Limited paid for Shockley's travels to her home state, Alaska, where she received the award in the annual ceremonies.

Shockley grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, with her parents and two older brothers, then moved to Stevens Village, a small rural town, about five years ago. But she said that she wasn't always as driven as she is now.

The soft-spoken 19-year-old smiled as she recalled her high school years. She started out in a federal boarding school, but got kicked out by the end of the year. "I broke every rule they had," she said. "I got caught drinking, staying out until 9 a.m."

After that, however, Shockley realized that she was headed down a path that "wasn't going to take me anywhere."

"Getting kicked out of school was a slap in the face," Shockley said. She started going to the public school in Stevens Village, but said she wanted more of a challenge. So during a 15 minute break at school, Shockley got on the Internet and signed up on a random website that recruited for private schools.

From the numerous brochures and information she received, Shockley chose Verde Valley School, a small private boarding school in Sedona, Arizona, "the most beautiful place on Earth. Besides Alaska," Shockley said, adding with a grin, "Maybe someday I'll think that of Hanover. When the snow goes away."

At Verde Valley for her junior and senior years, Shockley took chemistry classes and became interested in the environment, working as an environmental intern for Doyon Limited this past summer.

Shockley decided to come to Dartmouth because it was one of two places she had been accepted that had a Native American Studies program. "It was a little intimidating. It's a big name, but I knew I could do it," Shockley said, showing the drive and confidence that has led to the Udall Internship.

Once at Dartmouth, Shockley joined the crew team, a completely new experience. "It's definitely the biggest part of my life here," she said. "Crew is everything."

Shockley said that getting kicked out of high school was a turning point in her life, when she realized she wanted to do something with her life.

"I tend to jump at things that seem like they're out of my reach. Almost." Now with the Udall internship, Shockley looks forward to becoming familiar with the political system, and is looking at the internship as a possible career stepping stone. "I'm there just to absorb as much as I can, have an open mind, and see if I can fit into that system later in life."