2015 got off to a great start for the Center for Native American Youth, as we recognized our 2015 class of Champions for Change. In February, these five outstanding youth leaders joined us in Washington, DC to share their inspiring stories and discuss their impactful leadership initiatives on a national stage. To read more about our Champions’ recent advocacy efforts, click here. CNAY is currently searching for our 2016 class of Champions and we invite you to apply or nominate a young person for the CFC program! The application deadline is January 11.
CNAY’s 2015 outreach to Indian Country took us to California, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington state and Wisconsin, where we connected with tribal leadership, community programs and most importantly, Native young people. These visits to tribal and urban Indian communities help us understand what challenges and opportunities exist in Native communities throughout the country so that CNAY can be a helpful ally in communicating the priorities of Native youth and the programs and services that support them. Our outreach also gives us an opportunity to exchange a wealth of resources with youth, community members and service providers on the ground. Click here to explore our website and find resources for youth, tribes, and more.
In partnership with the White House and Department of the Interior on President Obama’s Generation Indigenous Initiative, CNAY worked this year to develop a growing National Native Youth Network that connects young Native leaders to programs, services and one another in order to elevate youth priorities, increase access to resources and opportunities, and support existing or developing youth-led initiatives aimed at creating positive community change. In the summer of 2015, CNAY released the Gen-I Map, which serves as a visual representation of youth and programs who have accepted the Gen-I Challenge to do and document something positive with youth in their communities. Click to learn how you – or an impactful program in your community – can get on the Map!
Here in Washington, DC, CNAY held several events that raised awareness of challenges and successes for youth in Indian Country. Our quarterly resource roundtable series convened federal partners, ally organizations and other key national stakeholders to collaborate on solutions to critical issues facing indigenous young people. In addition to providing their perspectives at these roundtable meetings, Native youth joined us in DC for the first-ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering, the seventh annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, a CNAY public event during Native American Heritage Month that highlighted three Gen-I Ambassadors, and a convening with First Lady Michelle Obama that brought together philanthropies, nonprofit organizations and thought leaders to advocate for increased investments in youth in Indian Country. Our advocacy work continued through the media, with the elevation of youth stories on important issues such as eliminating barriers and increasing access to oral health care in Native communities, among others.
Late in the year, Executive Director Erin Bailey announced that she will transition out of her role after five years of passionate, dedicated service and excellent leadership at the Center for Native American Youth. Stepping in to lead the organization is Erik Stegman (Assiniboine — Carry the Kettle First Nation), who comes to us from the Center for American Progress. We are deeply grateful for Erin’s tireless work to create and build a strong foundation for CNAY and look forward to continuing this important work with Erik in the New Year.
In closing, we at CNAY are especially thankful for the young people, tribal leaders, community partners, funders and others who have engaged with and invested in our work. We look forward to staying connected with you and invite you to support our efforts to improve the lives of Native youth in 2016 and beyond. We wish you a safe and happy holiday season and look forward to another great year.