Close Up student program successfully completes another year for 2019
Gila River Indian News
Close Up 2019 concluded Wednesday, April 17 at the Gila River Governance Center. Twenty youth Community members left motivated for their future and outlook of serving our Community as adults. No two Close Up events are the same as this year brought in new and returning youth to experience a lot of what it takes to keep our tribe sovereign, accountable, and in line with its vision and mission to the people as future leaders.
For three days’ youth participants got a crash course in a variety of sessions that helped to understand how our tribal government operates. This included: mock elections for Governor and Lt. Governor for the Community, tribal council representatives, designating prosecutors and defense attorneys, Chief Judge, and various Community member roles. The event is all encompassing and requires every participant to take on a role and share the Community responsibilities. This approach forces the youth to take a different view of how our Community operates. And it also offers the opportunity to contribute to its wellbeing.
The program continues to evolve and improve year to year. And new sessions are incorporated if there’s a need, such additions include water rights and tribal sovereignty. Every session was facilitated by local experts and representatives in their respective fields. Interestingly, the session on sovereignty serves as the most enlightening and difficult session to teach for youth. But as they learn, participants become inspired when they realize how much self-determination our government is afforded as a sovereign tribal nation. The program for 2020 will include a new session on ethics. The goal is to help youth understand it and how to exercise good ethics when navigating decisions that affect our Community.
Michael Preston, Youth Coordinator, expressed his admiration for the questions the youth asked of speakers throughout the event. Preston observed that much of what youth are concerned with stem from issues they face in their communities. It shows everyone that not only are they observing what’s wrong in the Community, but it also demonstrates their interest in creating change. Close Up is not only to learn how government operates but also provides a space where youth can dialogue and feel empowered to innovate new ideas and solutions.
Another benefit of Close Up is the youth interaction and building of their own social network amongst one another. Youth create relationships with others as peers and future professionals. Some years, there’s one participant that may not reside on the reservation or isn’t as engaged in the Community as others. So, Close Up provides those participants a chance to meet other youth, provides a deeper understanding of the Community and sparks their interest to get involved.