A University of Maine at Machias junior has received a national scholarship after showing academic and personal resilience following the heroin overdose deaths of several family members.

Ponuwon Wocuhsis Brodeur, who is studying psychology and community studies, is one of 50 people nationwide to win a Udall scholarship. The scholars are selected for their leadership, public service, and commitment to issues related to Native American nations or to the environment.

Brodeur, a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, is one of six students to win Udall scholarships in the Native American Health Care category. In addition to receiving the funds, Brodeur will spend five days in Tucson, Arizona, with other Udall scholars.

Brodeur, 35, was a part-time student last fall when four members of her family died – two sisters and a cousin to heroin overdoses and another cousin to suicide, according to an announcement that UMaine posted online. An uncle died of illness during the same time period. In January, she and her three children moved in with her brother.

She maintained straight As throughout the tragedies and upheaval, and decided to double down on her education and enroll full time in the spring.

“I looked at my life and said, ‘If I can get through all that, I can be a full-time student so I can graduate faster and start making an impact sooner,’ ” she told school officials.

“The essay I wrote for the Udall was about using all this tragedy as an inspiration instead of allowing it to defeat me,” she said. “My dream is to build a Wabanaki crisis response system. I want to honor the people I’ve lost in this way.”

Brodeur is the only Udall scholar in Maine this year. Nationwide, 437 students were nominated.

The undergraduate scholarships are awarded by the Udall Foundation in memory of brothers Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall, both of whom served in Congress and were known for their environmental and Native American initiatives. Morris served 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, and 10 years as chairman of what is now the Committee on Natural Resources. Stewart was appointed secretary of the Interior by President John F. Kennedy and served for eight years under Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

NOTE: This story was updated at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, May 8, 2018 after UMaine changed its online press release about the scholarship, removing references to aspects of Brodeur’s life.

 

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