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Law student helps start nonprofit in Cherokee Nation

MADISON, Wis. – Jeremy Marshall, a second-year law student at the University of Wisconsin Law School, is already making a name for himself in Indian country.

Marshall has a background in business, politics and health administration. To complement that, he decided to earn a law degree as well. He grew up in the heart of Cherokee country, in Tahlequah, Okla., with parents who spoke their Native languages, Creek and Cherokee. Growing up in the two cultures and surrounded by traditional teachings, he thanks his parents for their encouragement to do something good with his life to benefit all Indian people.

Marshall graduated second in his class in 1998 from Sequoyah High School and was voted by his peers as most likely to succeed. “I think I am on my way to doing that,” he said.

He then attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, graduating in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He spent summers in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill working for a congressman or working in a federal government agency office.

After graduating from Northeastern, he went to work for the Cherokee Nation as a policy analyst for Chief Chad Smith’s policy team for two years. During that time a friend sent him some information about a two-year health fellowship through the IHS office in Washington, D.C. He applied and was accepted.

“It was the perfect opportunity to learn about the IHS system and health care up close while working on Native health policy issues,” Marshall said. Working in the IHS legal office and in the Office of the Secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services prompted him to pursue a law degree. “Law school is very challenging; it can be a scary process. After graduation I hope to work as an attorney for a while before returning back to Oklahoma where I might run for a political office.”

During his two-year employment with the Cherokee Nation; he helped start a nonprofit to benefit his community – the Tailholt Community Organization. The organization planned fundraising events, and with labor donated by members of the community, built the Caney Community Center. “Two of the things I am most proud of that the community organization has been involved in, is starting a nutrition program for our elders and an after school program for our youth. The nonprofit is also working on finishing the installation of a new water line system that will provide area residents with fresh drinking water.”

Marshall is happy to be affiliated with those efforts. “When I left for my health fellowship, folks in the community took over and have done very well. The organization has really revitalized our community. It has brought folks together; families are working together – both Natives and non-Natives.”

Marshall said it’s important for today’s youth to get involved in their communities, earn an education and help their people in a positive way. “It is so easy to sit on the couch and play video games or watch TV. Do something positive that can inspire folks, our elders expect a lot from future generations. I try to inspire others to take what I have done and carry it even farther.”

As a second year law student, Marshall spends a lot of time on campus at the Frank J. Remington Center, a law-in-action program consisting of several clinical projects dedicated to teaching, service and research. The center includes civil and criminal projects, and provides law students the opportunity to develop professional skills and judgment necessary to excel as attorneys. Students are assigned to cases to gain real life experience in a courtroom.

“I worked on cases for folks in prison addressing their legal concerns,” Marshall said. “When I started working with the program early this past summer I requested to work with Native American inmates addressing their questions and concerns regarding Wisconsin law.”

Marshall said in addition to his parents inspiring him to do well, he has his wife, Heidi to thank. “I am able to do some good things because of them and their encouragement.” The Marshall’s welcomed their first child recently, Giselle.

Marshall, 30, was named one of the Native American 40 Under 40 honorees for 2009 in connection with the 40th anniversary of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. The honorees were formally recognized Sept. 18, at the Indian Progress in Business Event in Tulsa, Okla.