Growing up just outside the Community, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Michael Mainwold learned the importance of education at a young age. His mother, who raised him by herself, instilled it in him. This may be one reason why Mainwold is the first in his family to further his education, attending the Indian Legal Program of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.
During his youth, Mainwold was involved in tennis, basketball and other extracurricular activities to keep him busy. While attending Mountain View High School, he took advanced placement classes to improve his grade point average, which allowed him to graduate ninth in his class of approximately 880 students.
College was definitely in his plans, and at first he thought he would be going into the medical field. But after spending 100 hours of volunteering in a hospital, Mainwold quickly realized that medical field wasn’t for him. Political science was something that piqued his interest, and he graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
After a short stint working for the Community as management assistant, he decided to pursue an advanced degree. Mainwold had always been interested in the way people interact with each other, and since he knew that lawyers constantly come together and work things out to accomplish goals, he knew being a lawyer was his destiny. He wanted to go to law school.
After taking his LSAT and being accepted into the ASU College of Law, Mainwold parted with his Community job, as that is a requirement for all first-year law students.
He quickly realized that law school has “a lot of reading.” During that first year of law school, the classes emphasized a way of analytical thinking, how you take in a piece of information and what you learn from it. It was described as a metaphor by one of his professors, who compared law school to toothpaste.
“They want to train you to think in a certain way,” Mainwold said. “You have to be ‘bottom squeezers,’ where you start from the bottom and push it to the top. That is something we all laughed about, but we all got it.”
Mainwold soon will be jetting across the United States on the way to a 10-week Native American Congressional Internship in Washington, D.C., fully funded by the Udall Foundation. Each year the foundation gives the opportunity to 12 Native American college, graduate school or law school students to work in congressional and agency offices, where they have opportunities to research legislative issues important to tribal communities, network with key public officials and tribal advocacy groups, experience an insider's view of the federal government, and enhance their understanding of nation-building and tribal self-governance. They find out what issues in the federal government are affecting Indian Country and how they can play an active role after they graduate. Mainwold will be interning with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor, in the Indian Affairs Division.
One of Mainwold’s interests when he comes back to work is economic development in Indian Country. He says it is important for tribes to be able to operate with self-determination.