On Sunday, the White House Office of Public Engagement launched the Native American Youth Challenge program. In a video message, President Obama announced the challenge at the 2011 UNITY Youth Conference, calling for young American Indian and Alaska Native leaders to submit their stories of leadership and service in their communities. The stories submitted will be considered and evaluated based on ademonstrated record of service to one’s tribe, nation, village, or community. Young leaders who have sought to improve their communities are encouraged to submit stories in one or more of the following areas:
- Education, Mentorship or Afterschool Programs;
- Sports, Nutrition or Let’s Move! in Indian Country;
- Substance and Alcohol Abuse Prevention;
- Health and Wellness, including Youth Suicide Prevention;
- Building Healthy Relationships and Peer Relationships;
- Cultural Preservation and Native Languages;
- Anti-Bullying and Personal Empowerment;
- Self Expression through Arts and Crafts;
- Emerging Leadership in Government Service; and
- Economic and Community Development
As a part of the challenge, a handful of exceptional Native youth community leaders will be invited to the White House this fall in conjunction with the activities of Native American heritage month. Submissions should include a description of the leadership initiatives or community programs; the number of people involved or effected; key examples of success; and explanations of the barriers or challenges and how they were overcome. Simply put, we hope to hear from Native American Youth to learn about how you are working to overcome the challenges facing your communities – send us your stories!
One great example of how young people are overcoming the challenges facing Indian Country is by taking part in the First Lady’s initiative, Let’s Move! in Indian Country. Today, the White House Summer South Lawn Series hosted a lacrosse event for approximately 80 Native American youth from the Menominee Nation, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Native Lifelines of Baltimore, as well as local youth from Annapolis and D.C. The groups played and learned about Lacrosse with some of the best players in the game, while also learning about the origins of the game and cultural traditions from members of the Onondaga Nation. Let’s Move! in Indian Country strives to bring together federal agencies, communities, nonprofits, corporate partners and tribes to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in Indian Country within a generation.
Charles Galbraith is the Associate Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement