SOTU shout out for Melissa Isaac, Gizhwaasod (“Protector of the Young”)
First Lady Jill Biden will host Saginaw Chippewa tribal education advocate during tonight's State of the Union speech.
WASHINGTON — Melissa Isaac, a citizen of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Mt. Pleasant, Mich., will be rubbing shoulders with First Lady Jill Biden at the State of the Union address to the nation this evening.
Jill Biden invited Isaac to join her as a special guest in her official viewing box as President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union speech, scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. ET.
The president is expected to cover the difficulties of his first year in office, including the ongoing pandemic, legislative challenges, economic complexities and now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Jill Biden, meanwhile, will draw attention to physical and mental health issues, including efforts to cure Type I diabetes, and education initiatives.
Isaac, known as Gizhwaasod, according to the White House, is the leader of the Michigan Department of Education’s Indigenous Education Initiative, and she is the founder of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe’s Project AWARE Program. Gizhwaasod translates to “Protector of the Young” in the Anishinaabe Ojibwe language.
Isaac most recently worked as the director of education for her tribe and previously served as the president of the Confederation of Michigan Tribal Education Directors.
“As an elementary school teacher at Saginaw Chippewa Academy (SCA), Isaac recognized the need to support the mental health of her students and their families,” according to a statement from the White House. “She later successfully applied for a Project AWARE grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Using this grant, Isaac expanded mental health services for children at SCA and two public school districts, which included services for Native American children.”
Isaac has worked for her tribe in various capacities since 2006 and received her bachelor and master of science degrees from Central Michigan University, where she is now working on her doctorate in K-12 education leadership.
Jill Biden and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy initially met Isaac last October when when they hosted a listening session focused on youth mental health with citizens of the tribe in Michigan.
As first lady, Jill Biden has taken a special interest in issues of importance to Indian Country. She has visited multiple tribes, including the Navajo Nation, and she participated in the White House Tribal Nations Summit in September.
"As the world changes around us and chaos disrupts, we must have a path forward, a way to rediscover and recreate the harmony we need," she told Navajo citizens during her visit with them last April, at the height of the pandemic.
“Despite the challenges that you faced, the Navajo Nation lives that truth again and again.”
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