Embracing the uncomfortable and falling in love with the process along the way. 

This month we visited with Kola Bad Bear, an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe. Kola currently plays basketball for MSUB and advocates for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Please start with your background, tribe, where you grew up, family, schools attended, what you are currently doing now, etc:

I grew up in Pryor, MT, part of the Crow tribe, and attended St. Charles Mission School from pre-k through 8th grade. I moved to Billings to attend Billings Senior High, then got my undergrad in Community Health with a minor in Human Development at MSU-Bozeman, where I played basketball. Then, I transferred to MSU-Billings to play my last year of eligibility.

What motivated you to pursue your current career or path?

I’ve always been told that to go to college, I needed an academic or athletic scholarship. So, all I knew was to pursue both pathes aggressively. I’ve always loved basketball, and I got the opportunity to play at the college level.

Kola wears an MMIW shirt while playing basket ball for Montana State University.

Can you share a pivotal moment or experience that shaped your journey?

In my senior year of high school, I tore my ACL mid-way through volleyball season and had to say goodbye to that sport earlier than expected. That was hard. I also missed out on my senior year of basketball and all the accolades that came with it. 

What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them?

I’ve faced physical and emotional challenges in my life, and my family, friends, and God have always supported me during those times.

Who were your role models or sources of inspiration when you were younger?

I looked up to WNBA’s Shoni Schimmel and her sister Jude. My two older sisters have also played a pivotal role in shaping my life. 

What advice would you give to a young person unsure about their future career or goals?

Embrace the uncomfortable and learn to fall in love with the process. You only grow when you’re uncomfortable. Keep dreaming big, and never stop chasing them! 

How do you stay motivated and driven, even when faced with setbacks?

I leaned on my family a lot and always turned to them when times got hard. 

Can you share an example of a time when you had to step out of your comfort zone? What did you learn from that experience?

During my freshman year of college, I learned how difficult it is to be a student-athlete and manage school, practice, social life, and missing family. I had just gotten cleared to play basketball, and it was hard for me to get going, but I learned to manage my time better. 

What skills or qualities are most important for young people to develop to succeed in their chosen paths?

Discipline and time management are the best qualities to possess, no matter what you decide to do. 

Kola graduating from Montana State University.

How do you balance personal passions and professional responsibilities in your life?

I make sure to include time on my schedule that reflects what’s happening in life and time to include gathering with family and friends. 

What strategies do you use to continue learning and growing in your field?

I ask for help and advice when needed and weigh all my options. It helps when you can learn or hear other perspectives before making a decisions.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing challenges or opportunities for young people today?

Commitment can be difficult for young people today because of how easy a family makes it to come home and give up because of feeling lonesome or how hard challenges may seem. Family should be an anchor not that ties you down but always to grow by being supportive.

How do you envision the future, and what role do young people play in shaping it?-

I imagine getting my master’s eventually and working with youth or pediatrics in healthcare! 

Can you share advice or a mantra that has guided you throughout your journey?

Enjoy the little moments and stay present as much as possible because the days may seem long, but the years are like lightning; they go by fast. You get to control your attitude and choose how you react to every situation. Perspective is everything. 

What projects or initiatives are you currently working on that could inspire or involve young people?

I am helping with the MMIP awareness game at MSUB on February 17, 2024, at 4:15 p.m.! 

How can young individuals get involved in causes or fields they’re passionate about, even if they feel like they’re just starting?

Ask questions and get involved with the community or your college’s clubs that interest you!

Kola representing her community.

In your experience, how has mentorship or guidance from others contributed to your success?

Mentorship and guidance from others have contributed to my success. They have given me advice and been a support system I can always turn to during difficult times and good times. 

What is one thing you wish you had known or done differently when you were younger?

I wish I had gotten into the gym more at a younger age and challenged myself past the high school level. 

How can young people balance their ambitions with self-care and a healthy lifestyle?

Better time management is always so helpful! Write out your schedule, get a planner, and make long-term and short-term goals! 

What message would you like to convey to young individuals facing self-doubt or uncertainty about their potential?

It’s okay to fail; that’s the only way to learn and grow; continue to challenge yourself and push your limits to find your potential! 

Is there a particular story or lesson from your journey that you’d like to share as an inspiration to young people?

My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer in my sophomore year of college. I wanted to quit and go home to help around the house and be with her, but before she went into surgery, she made me promise her that I would finish basketball and graduate college from Bozeman. When times are hard, and it seems there is no other place to go, ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing and who you are doing it for. If it’s not for that little girl who dreamed of playing college basketball, then play for the other little girls who are looking up to you, and show them how doable it is to play at the next level and receive an education! 

What is one change you would like to see in your hometown community?

I would love to see more advocacy for homeless people and to see those struggling gain access to basic healthcare needs and food, especially in smaller communities.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself working in healthcare with smaller communities and children, whether in occupational therapy or as a community health worker! 

Kola with family, friends, and team mates.