Exposing youth to positive educational experiences that increase leadership skills, create spaces for exchange and prepare them to make a difference in their community is a key component of youth mentoring. From September 24-27, 2016, 20 mentees ages 14-17 years old and 5 mentors representing the Boys & Girls Club of Adair County Schools, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lewis Clark Valley, Boys & Girls Clubs of the White Earth Reservation, Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley - Gila River Sacaton Branch and the Boys & Girls Club of Ohkay Owingeh joined over 100 Native youth and 20 adult team leaders to participate in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) 2016 National Native Youth Summit in Washington, D.C.
The Summit allowed mentees to engage in educational workshops, where they discussed a broad range of topics that included Native American history and U.S. policy. The attendees of the Summit developed action plans for engaging Tribal and community leaders and returned to their communities as Youth Ambassadors to implement these plans. Through dialogue and small group discussion, youth identified common challenges in their communities; they also shared ideas for finding solutions to these issues. Youth began the process of putting their ideas into action by drafting project plans and creating poster board displays that provided detailed information about challenges in their communities and outlined their proposals for engaging Tribal leaders. Project topics included preventing language loss, improving parental involvement, combating diabetes, substance abuse awareness programs, and creating platforms forms for youth to have a voice in tribal leadership.