Center spends time with the Native youth honored at the White House

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On
Thursday, December 1st, eleven Native American Youth leaders were honored at the White House as Champions of Change. These young people are
Champions in their tribes and communities as they work to improve the lives of
those around them through innovative programs that help others, raise awareness
of important issues like suicide and bullying prevention, energy efficiency and
healthy eating.

The
Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning
the Future initiative. Each week, a different issue is highlighted and groups
of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community activists,
are recognized for the work they are doing to better their communities. These
outstanding young Natives were selected from a group of hundreds who answered
President
Obama’s call
to share their stories of leadership and community
service.

During the Champions of Change event, Senator Byron Dorgan, the Center’s founder, moderated a panel discussion with a group of the Native Youth Challenge winners. Each youth described their initiatives and passion for the work that they do. The event was recorded and will be available on the the Center’s website at a later time.

The Center reached out to 35 Native youth from Georgetown University, American University, alumni groups, internship programs, and Native youth middle and high school students from the DC area to join the Champions of Change White House event.

In addition to the event, the Center volunteered to lend a hand to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) during a Washington, DC double-decker bus tour with the Native youth winners.

*A special thanks goes to NCAI and Charlie Galbraith at the White House for inviting the Center to join the Champions of Change celebration and providing the opportunity for Native youth from the DC area to attend.
 
The White House’s Native American Youth “Champions of Change”
honorees are:

Teressa
Baldwin


Native
Village of Kiana


Sitka,
AK

Teressa
Baldwin has been directly impacted by suicide and wanted to take action to help
reduce the rate of suicide in her home state of Alaska. As a junior in high
school, Teressa was appointed by Governor Sean Parnell to the Statewide Suicide
Prevention council and became one of the youngest appointed representatives in
the state of Alaska. Following her appointment, Teressa started her own
organization teaching her peers about the signs of suicide and sharing her own
story about how suicide affected her life. After facing common hurdles to
suicide prevention programs, including high costs and low enrollment numbers in
trainings, Teressa has been able to work with 12 schools on suicide prevention
programs and is hoping to expand to more. Teressa feels that her work is part
of her life goal to help lower the rates of suicide in not only Alaska but the
rest of the country.

 

Morgan
Fawcett


Tlingit
and Haida


Fort
Jones, CA

Morgan
Fawcett was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) when he was
15 years old. At the time of his diagnosis, Morgan knew that he wanted to help
educate others about FASD both among Native Youth and all youth and adults
across the country. Morgan has organized concerts and benefits that allow to
him to speak about FASD at school assemblies, colleges, community colleges,
hospitals, churches and many more. Morgan has also created a flute program that
has allowed him to donate over 650 Native flutes to at risk youth and
challenged individuals. The Alaska State Legislature recognized Morgan for his
work by awarding him the NOFAS leadership award in 2011. Morgan hopes to begin
college this year and show others that just because you are born with a
disability, with help from friends, family and the community you can succeed.

 

LeVon
Totsohnii Thomas


Navajo


Cambridge,
MA

Levon
Totsohnii Thomas is currently studying Mechanical Engineering at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has been actively engaged with the
Navajo Nation Government. Levon currently sits on the Navajo Green Economy
Commission which promotes green businesses/jobs and influences green
legislation in the Navajo Nation. In addition, Levon has worked on wind energy
development on the Navajo Nation to educate the people on the importance of
sustainable development.  He plans to use his education to help his
community by bringing together the need for small businesses on the reservation
with sustainable business practices.

 

Madeline
Sayet


Mohegan


New
York, NY

Madeleine
Sayet keeps her culture alive by telling the stories of her tribal ancestry
through storytelling and plays. Beginning as a teenager, Madeline spent summers
creating and teaching shadow puppet plays of traditional stories in the Mohegan
language to her Youth Camp. Madeline played a critical role in all aspects of
the development and production of these plays which were intended to help
children gain a deeper understanding for their heritage and native tongue. She
went on to receive a degree in Theater from New York University (NYU) where she
also served as Co-President of the Native American Club. Since graduating,
Madeline has performed a Native play by William Yellowrobe Jr. and still plays
an active role on the campus of NYU as she continues her education. Madeline
also writes about her homeland including one short story in University of
Nebraska’s forthcoming Anthology of New England Native Literature. She is
currently working on her Masters’ thesis which will be a play illustrating the
life of her ancestor Fidelia Fielding, the last fluent speaker of the Mohegan
language- to be performed in NYC this spring before performing to her tribe
back home.

 

Desiree
Vea


Koloa,
HI

When
Desiree Vea returned home to Hawaii in 2009 after attending college in New
York, homelessness was at its highest since 1997, with its highest rates among
Native Hawaiian. Moved by the needs of her community, Desiree began developing
a curriculum to help homeless families transition to permanent rentals. During
this time, Desiree helped the community see how important their voice was and
as the 2011 legislative session began in Hawaii, she conducted her first
workshop of 12 people who came together to organize a poverty simulation at the
capitol. This group continued with her support to create community cash-flow
projects, multi-family markets and micro-enterprise.  Now they are
rebuilding their community on their own and creating models for other communities.

 

Iko’tsimiskimaki
“Ekoo” Beck


Blackfeet


Missoula,
MT

 Iko’tsimiskimaki
“Ekoo” Beck is an advocate against bullying and after earning the My Idea Grant
from AT&T and America’s Promise Alliance, she was able to fund her project
“Inspire to Lead.” With this program, Ekoo has implemented a program which is
providing peer led prejudice reduction, violence prevention trainings for high
school, middle school and elementary school students as well as after school
programs. In the course of these trainings, participants learn more about the
effects of bullying, prejudice and racism and how to end it. Ekoo’s program has
impacted hundreds of students in Missoula through community and peer leaders.
Due to Ekoo’s work on this important issue, she was appointed as a youth
representative on the Board of Directors of America’s Promise Alliance led by
and founded by General Colin Powell and Alma Powell.

 

Emmet
Yepa


Jemez
Pueblo


Jemez
Pueblo, NM

Emmet
Yepa from the Jemez Pueblo tribe in New Mexico, is an environmental advocate in
his tribe and wants to find solutions to help educate his people and future
generations about the importance of recycling. Emmet helped to form the
Walatowa Green Stars Recyclying Group in 2010 which consists of four youth
members and is focused on preserving and keeping their ancestral lands
beautiful through recycling. Despite initial challenges to get approval, the
Green Stars persisted and currently educate students at local schools and have
implemented recycling bins in designated areas within their Pueblo. Since 2010,
Walatowa Green Stars had been recognized with numerous awards and given
opportunities to speak at local and national conferences.  Emmet’s
ultimate goal is for his tribe to eventually have its very own Recycling Center.

 

Lorna
Her Many Horses


Rosebud


Rosebud,
SD

Lorna
Her Many Horses is dedicated to honoring the American Indian soldiers and
veterans who serve this country at a higher per capita rate than any other
ethnic group.  She has worked with elders and language teachers to
translate the Star Spangled Banner into Lakota and Dakota because she feels
that our soldiers and veterans deserve to be honored in their own language. To
make this a reality, along with the help of others, she was able to record and
produced CD’s in her own community that have been  given out to hundreds
of Native American veterans and soldiers, and more than 50 schools and youth
organizations. 

 

Tiffany
Calabaza

Kewa
(formerly Santo Domingo Pueblo)

Colorado
Springs, CO

Tiffany
Calabaza is currently a student at Colorado College and has helped bring
renewable energy technology to her hometown of Kewa, New Mexico. Tiffany worked
with her advisor and others at Colorado College along with tribal community
members and tribal community leaders on education and development of the energy
technology. Through her community based research, everyone agreed upon
converting one of their community windmills into a solar water pumping station
which will pump ground water in a more efficient fashion allowing livestock and
other small wildlife to have a source of drinking water. The project continues
to involve both Colorado College students as well as Kewa tribal members. The
goal is to educate her community on renewable energy technologies so that it
will raise awareness on the efficiency and benefits of engaging with this
technology.  Overall, Tiffany’s goal is to provide her people with
solutions to allow the cattle to spread evenly throughout the rangelands and
avoid over grazing, preventing further damage to our land.

 

Cassandra
Candice Steele


Pinoleville
Pomo Nation


Ukiah,
CA

Cassandra
Steele started her tribe’s first traditional Pomo dance group and continues to
work with a youth group she started to preserve their culture by learning
traditions of basket-making, fishing, gathering, beading, speaking the Pomo
language, singing traditional songs and ceremonial dancing. Cassandra arranges
fundraisers, activities and talking circles for her youth group which she works
to keep inclusive of those not only in her tribe but for any children who want
to participate. The main focus of the group is to improving life for young
people in her community by preventing teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse,
suicide, bullying, and preserving their culture and tradition. In addition,
Cassandra works to teach environmentally friendly practices to her
community,  including building a proto type house for their tribal
citizens. In July 2011, they broke ground on their first house which will use
solar energy, composting toilets, rain water catch system, grey water system
and hay bale materials with a culturally inspired physical design. 
Cassandra remains focused on bridging the gap between the elders and youth in
her community to preserve their culture for future generations.

 

Dallas
Duplessis


Alaskan
Native


Tulalip,
WA

Dallas
Duplessis is an advocate for healthier eating on her reservation. After seeing
firsthand the negative effects of unhealthy eating habits, Dallas was focused
on making a difference. Dallas and her family have been involved in the Hilbulb
Cultural Center program “Growing Together as families” which teaches families
healthy eating habits. From her involvement with the Cultural Center, Dallas
was inspired to start the Tulalip Youth Gardeners Club to inspire other kids to
garden together with their families. Since the start of the club, they have
been able to teach kids to learn about gardening during the opening of the
Hilbulb Center, at the Boys and Girls Club and at the Evergreen State Fair
where they won ten ribbons. As their club says, their goal is not to be couch
potatoes but to grow some potatoes.

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2 thoughts on “Center spends time with the Native youth honored at the White House

  1. Thank You for sharing this article on your website it was a beautiful event and all the youth involved felt so much pride in their hard work by being honored at the White House by President Obama.

  2. This should be an annual event for the White House. There are certainly many other outstanding Native American youth who could be considered. Oklahoma which has the largest Native American student population in the US didn’t have a representative in this round.

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