In 2015, the Center for Native American Youth partnered with Aspen Global Health and Development and the Aspen Institute’s Human Resource Department to design, implement and evaluate a new service learning initiative that encourages Institute staff to apply their work to their home community or another community of interest. In addition to serving as a recruitment and retention tool for the Institute, the purpose of the Aspen on the Ground (AoG) initiative is to encourage staff to nurture connections to communities on the ground and contribute positively to grassroots community improvement efforts.
AoG originated with CNAY’s desire to provide opportunities for Native Institute staff to return home and invest their time and talent in their tribal or urban Indian communities. The AoG initiative provides travel and other support that enables Institute staff to spend up to two weeks participating in a service-learning project of their choosing. The projects are designed in conjunction with people and organizations on the ground to ensure that they are relevant to the needs and goals of the community.
CNAY program manager Josie Raphaelito participated in AoG by completing a two week volunteer rotation with the Ramah Navajo School Board, Inc.on the Ramah Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. Josie’s project aimed to identify and analyze program management strategies on a community and tribal level, and to identify and encourage youth engagement strategies throughout tribal programming. Josie presented findings and future directions for her project at an information exchange held at the Aspen Institute’s Washington DC office on November 20, 2015.