Youth gather at the annual AOPPYC Youth Conference
Gila River Indian News
While school is out, most youth are looking for positive activities to occupy their time. Gila River Indian Community youth didn’t have to look far as the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center was the site for the 31st Annual Gila River Youth Conference. The Akimel O’odham/ Pee Posh Youth Council hosted the event held from June 28-30.
Michael Preston, Youth Council Coordinator, said that planning for every conference takes 11 months, almost immediately after one concludes. This year’s conference theme was “Physical. Mental. Spiritual.” The youth council Conference Chairperson Randel Curran led the development of the programming, theme, guest speaker selection, and gift selection.
The theme reflected the overall goal of the three-day conference programming. The idea and intention behind it, Preston shared, “is for young people to begin to understand the connection between the three aspects.” He further explained that many times, young people focus on the area of their well-being, and the other two suffer an imbalance that affects their original goal. Therefore, young people should learn how to balance those and approach life by fulling engaged in all those areas.
Comedian and actor Tatanka Means put the youth at ease as the keynote on the first day. The conference wove presentations, and workshops that promoted the theme, including a glow-in-the-dark yoga session, language workshops, college and education workshops, money management, and soft-skill development. Physical activities included toka, a three-on-three basketball tournament, and a DJ dance.
The conference brought in 320 youth from the Community, neighboring Salt River Pima--Maricopa Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community and youth across the state. Those visiting youth came from the Tohono O’odham Nation and Fort Apache Indian Tribe.
The youth council also went into caucus to nominate each other or themselves to serve as district representatives on the council for the upcoming year.