Youth Council hosts about 40 youth for extensive roundtable discussion
Gila River Indian News
The Winter break is a chance for youth to take time from school and enjoy the holidays with friends and family. But for about 40 youth in the Gila River Indian Community, it was an opportunity to learn about tribal government and history while offering their input for the future. About 40 youth attended the Akimel O’odham/Pee Posh Youth Council’s (AOPPYC) Youth Roundtable in District 4 on Jan. 2 and 3 over the break for discussions and sessions regarding the Community.
At the two-day event, the youth learned about GRIC governance, policies and historical events. They took that knowledge into a brainstorming session where they introduced new ideas for GRIC youth and the Community. A diverse group of young people participated in the event, varying in ages from 14-21. It was also a mixture of youth who reside on the Community, with some who reside in neighboring locations. The mix yielded diverse perspectives that led to new insights and solutions during the discussions.
David Romero, District 5, enjoyed the event stating, "the event teaches youth how to work together, express ideas and concerns in a healthy way, and gives opportunities to improve public speaking. Another benefit is getting educated on the history of the relationship between Native Americans and the federal and state government."
Junior Pancott, District 2, also attended and said, "The youth are the future of the Community. Many of us have ideas and suggestions to help our Community, and they should not be overlooked. These youths are smart, intelligent, and will change the face of Indian Country."
Ginger Martin, Michael Preston, Youth Council Coordinator, and various AOPPYC advisors led the presentations and activities throughout the event. The youth had the opportunity to make connections with others by participating in numerous team-building activities, ice breakers, and work sessions.
Every group on day two had to consider policy changes that could support youth or improve various aspects of the Community. Guided by the facilitators, the groups highlighted the following: incorporating cultural teaching in the formal education system, mentors for youth for personal growth and cultural learnings, increased funding for mental health, more streetlights for safety, financial literacy/ education, and higher education opportunities and investment. These were only a few of the many topics that arose among the groups but stood out the most.
As stated, the discussions were lengthy and offered the opportunity to create new policy ideas based on the learnings from day one regarding government structure and the history of the Community.
Crystal Lomayestewa, District 3, said, "the highlight of the event was being able to express my opinion and be heard in a group of youth that is willing to learn with an open mind.”
And the highlight for Susanna Osife, District 2, was, "being able to see others interact and have conversations about the community and bring our ideas to our government, based on a youth perspective."
All the data collected by the youth will generate a report for the GRIC Executive Office and reported out to Tribal Council for comments. It's just the first step for allowing youth voices to be heard by Community leadership. But it is a powerful first step for Angel Marquez, District 1, who said, "it makes us feel like we have a voice in the Community and that we can make a difference.”