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UWS names 2014 Community Diversity Award winner

Submitted by Tom Hansen, University of Wisconsin-Superior University Relations

The Office of Multicultural Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Superior announced Leslie Gibbs, a 2002 graduate, is the recipient of the 2014 Community Diversity Award.

Gibbs is an enrolled tribal member of the Red Lake Ojibwe Nation. He was born and raised in Ponemah on the Red Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. He is a military veteran who served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1984 to 1990. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1997 from the University of Minnesota Duluth and his master’s degree in 2002 from the UWS.

Gibbs worked as an adolescent, mental health and wellness counselor and therapist with the Red Lake and Fond du Lac reservations. He was crucial in providing and directing crisis counseling support to the Red Lake Nation after the Red Lake school shootings, where three of the victims were relatives. In the aftermath of the shootings, he wanted to assist in reducing the stigma of mental illness in Red Lake and Ponemah. Gibbs admits that this was a very difficult and challenging time both professionally and personally. He is a community support program case manager with the Human Development Center in Superior as a mental health therapist.

Gibbs’ connection to UWS is widespread. He was an ad hoc instructor within the First Nations Studies program, an emcee for the Circle of Native Nations Powwow for the past 10 years and for the past two years served on a parent panel within the Office of Multicultural Affairs’ Making College Accessible program.

He is an executive board member of the American Indian Community Housing Organization in Duluth and previously served on the Minnesota American Indian Health Advocacy Council, the Duluth Human Rights Commission and the Spotted Eagle School Board. He mentored countless American Indian youth throughout his adult career with programs such as the National Indian Youth Leadership Project and the Red Lake Indian Youth Council.

He presented on concepts and issues dealing with the American Indian family at many local and regional conferences such as Minnesota Mental Health Association, Minnesota American Indian Mental Health Advisory Council and the St. Louis County Mental Health Conference and was part of the Blandin Foundation Community Leadership Training Team.

Gibbs is a strong advocate for higher education, especially for diverse students of all ages and backgrounds. He says, “I believe in building relationships with all people and to maintain those relationships respectfully. As a Native American, I live each day with a value of treating everybody with respect and dignity.”

Gibbs gives credit and respect to his wife, Renee, and their daughter, Ravyn, for his community involvement and is grateful for their support. He spends his free time golfing, fishing and emceeing powwows.