Champions for Change Summer 2015 Highlights

It was a busy summer for CNAY’s Champions for Change! Native youth leaders from across the country participated in events, traveled to conferences and made positive impacts in their communities. CNAY created the Champions program as an effort to shine a spotlight on inspirational stories and promote hope in Indian Country. In our visits to tribal and urban Indian communities, our team listens to and learns from young Native Americans about youth priorities, challenges and successes. We continue to hear from and about inspirational Native youth who are takingthe lead in tackling community challenges and inspiring entire communities. The CFC program is a way to recognize and encourage those youth-led efforts!

White House Tribal Youth Gathering

Many of our Champions from all three classes participated in the first ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering in early-July, with some serving on the planning committee for the historic event. Dahkota Brown and Liz Burns played an important role in developing the theme, break-out sessions and speakers, which included First Lady Michelle Obama. At the White House Tribal Youth Gathering itself, Dahkota and Liz were joined by Vance Home Gun, Sarah Schilling, Cierra Fields, Rory Taylor, William Lucero, Danielle Finn, and Hamilton Seymour – who introduced the First Lady. The Champions were all active participants and showed their leadership in moderating panels with high level federal officials and facilitating break-out sessions.


National Advocacy

In addition to the Gathering, Champions came out to DC to participate in CNAY’s Capitol Hill briefing in July, CNAY’s roundtable with federal agencies and national tribal organizations, and the Native American Language Summit in early-September. Hamilton Seymour and Rory Taylor joined other Native youth on a panel during our briefing hosted by Congressman Tom Cole and Congresswoman Betty McCollum in early-July. That same week, Rory participated on a panel with Secretary Jewell and then later joined Sarah Schilling on Al-Jazeera America’s Stream program.


In early-September, Sarah and Lauren McLester-Davis provided their perspectives to federal agencies, national tribal organizations and non-Native advocacy organizations during our summer roundtable. Vance Home Gun, who also attended the roundtable, served on a panel during the Native American Language Summit to share his perspectives on language preservation. Lastly, Jazmyn Espinoza traveled to DC to be a counselor for the Pathkeepers for Indigenous Knowledge camp, as well as a meeting with Casey Family Programs.


Joaquin Gallegos, had a Letter to the Editor published in the Washington Post and also spoke on a panel at A Gathering of Leaders in New Orleans.

Travel to Tribal Communities

Jazmyn also traveled with CNAY staff to Washington State in early-August to help facilitate meetings with youth from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, the Tulalip Tribes, the Lummi Nation and the Nooksack Indian Tribe. During the meetings, Jazmyn also shared about her leadership efforts and encouraged young people to tackle challenges in their communities.


During the trip, she was joined by William Lucero and Hamilton Seymour, who also shared about their positive leadership and participation in the Champions program.

Community Efforts

Dahkota Brown had a busy summer with his advocacy to remove Native American mascots from schools – specifically in his home state of California, where the legislature recently passed a law to ban the use of “Redskins” in schools.

Cierra Fields was very active in her tribe this summer helping to plan another youth summit, create a women’s shelter and raise awareness about sexual assault.

Carin Young is currently working on a non-profit status for Break the Silence in Hawaii. She is also working on creating a summer camp for homeless children with a focus on Native Hawaiian youth. The camp will teach job training and life skills. She will graduate from college this fall and move to Mexico at the end of the year to continue her journey of public service.

Tatiana Ticknor spent her summer promoting culture and language and youth leadership. She created a “Word of the Day” campaign in the Dena’ina language, organized a youth council at her school, which is currently having elections and fundraising to attend conferences and access leadership development opportunities.

Internships and Academic Programs

Keith Martinez, who recently received the Harry S. Truman Scholarship this past April, attended the Public Policy & International Affairs (PPIA) Summer Institute at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy & International Affairs at Princeton University.

Rory Taylor served as a CNAY intern this summer, during which he helped with public events and policy efforts.


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