Trips to Mexico as a child sparked Kevin Simeon’s interest in learning more about the world. During those trips, Simeon, an enrolled citizen of the Spokane Tribe, saw how different the local community functioned compared to his Indigenous community in Washington.
Those experiences sparked a desire in Simeon to learn more about how the world worked, and he’s followed that curiosity throughout his career.
Simeon was awarded the 2023 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship on November, 18, 2022 — a highly-competitive fellowship for which he was selected out of almost 900 other applicants. The fellowship is funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Howard University to support individuals interested in pursuing careers in the Foreign Service.
“This was definitely not something that was sporadic; it was definitely very, very planned and coordinated,” Simeon said of applying for the fellowship.
Simeon embarked on an almost seven-month application process in March 2022. The process involved navigating many different forms and exams. He had to write three essays — one that displayed his professional and academic background, one about his cultural background and one about his financial need. He also had to provide a resume and two letters of recommendation — and he even created his own website.
When he found out he was a finalist, his work wasn’t done. Simeon had to complete a 60-minute timed exam and was interviewed by a distinguished panel made up of a former ambassador to a country, a distinguished professor from a U.S. institution, and a current serving diplomat working in an embassy, he said.
The Rangel Fellowship provides Simeon with two internships. The first is a 10-week internship with the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C., and the second 10-week internship will take place in a U.S. Embassy abroad where Simeon will be working on duties within his specific area of the Foreign Service.
During his placement abroad during the fellowship, Simeon will focus on public diplomacy, reaching out to host country counterparts to engage in activities that will allow him to spread the values of the United States to different parts of the world, he said.
The fellowship also includes a scholarship to any University in the U.S. that Simeon chooses to attend, where he will obtain his master’s degree related to the U.S. Foreign Service goals.
Upon completing the fellowship, Simeon will enroll in an introductory training class for incoming Foreign Service Officers. Then, by the fall of 2025, he should be getting his first assignment overseas in the U.S. Embassy, where he’ll begin his work as a U.S. Diplomat.
“I think this fellowship was the intersection of opportunity meets preparation, and with that, my desire to join the U.S. Foreign Services is binary in nature,” he said.
Simeon has the desire to promote world peace. He wants to be a lynchpin executive within the South China Sea to help navigate the waters of a peaceful rising China within the greater global community But he also has goals that hit closer to home.
“I also have a desire to be a role model for Indigenous populations within the U.S.,” Simeon said. “I grew up within my tribal community and I do know it was difficult to find peers and role models within my community. I really want to showcase that whatever your professional desire or educational aspirations, they are all achievable and I want to mentor other Native American rising stars.”
Simeon hopes to partner with the Indigenous community in Washington, D.C. and wants to create a network of like minded Indigenous professionals working to create more diversity and opportunity in politics.
“I think the D.C. Indigenous community can create a lot of ripples and impact Indigenous native communities throughout the U.S.,” Simeon said. “Hopefully, I can become an influential Indigenous leader.”
Simeon faced many struggles to get to where he is now.
“I have worked very hard to get to this point through consistency, through staying up late and typing papers, through having a vision and going to sleep every night thinking, ‘Did I do everything I possibly can to get closer to this dream or to this goal?’ and constantly thinking about it,” he said.
He’s consistently applied for different opportunities to stay the course toward his goal. He credits this with helping build character.
“I’ve been constantly told ‘no’ all throughout my current career; however, I just would refuse to take no as an answer, and I would ask again and again, and eventually, I’ve noticed, it’s lead to success,” he said.
Simeon graduated from Washington State University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies and Chinese language and culture.
While at Washington State, Simeon participated in a study abroad program in Thailand, an experience, he said, that changed his life forever.
After graduating from Washington State, he was selected to participate as a Fellow in the Global Korea Scholarship Program, where he earned a master’s degree in international cooperation from Seoul National University’s Graduate School of International Studies in South Korea in August 2022.
“I’m excited to return to the U.S. and build upon my existing academic knowledge and progress forward to be a cutting-edge stakeholder within U.S. Foreign diplomacy,” he said. “I’m doing what I love and this is what I really enjoy doing.
Simeon credits his mentors for helping him get to where he is today. He encourages other Indigenous youth to stay consistent, do their best, build a network of people who share their goals, find professionals to mentor them, and continue working even when it seems impossible.
“My desire is to showcase to Native American communities, to Indigenous developing young leaders, that if I can do it, anyone can do it. Whatever community you come from, success can be achieved through dedication and really having a desire to do something,” he said.
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