Native American students shine at ADE Leadership Camp
PRESCOTT - Native American students from the Navajo, Hopi, Tohono O'odham and Yaqui tribes made a strong showing at this year's Arizona Department of Education Learn and Serve Arizona's Youth Leadership Camp. The event took place Nov. 8-10 at the United Christian Youth Camp in Prescott.
Leadership-quality students from schools across the state gathered to participate in team building activities, workshops on goal setting, project planning, personal effectiveness and communication.
Native American students from the STAR School (between Flagstaff and Leupp), Winslow High School, and Ha:sañ Preparatory (in Tucson) designed and presented their service learning projects for the school year 2006-2007. Members of the Governor's Commission on Service and Volunteerism attended the presentation.
Brandon Montour, Afton Solomon, Keshia Yazzie, Crystal Drake, Rhiannon Billie, Burrell Jones and Kee Wilson-all Navajo students from the STAR School-described their own multi-faceted project. The project flies under the umbrella title of "Elder Help Project." Yazzie, Drake and Billie explained the water and wood-hauling component of the project.
"A lot of the elders in our community need help hauling water and wood," Yazzie said. "We have raised money to buy chains for chainsaws and gasoline for volunteer vehicles."
"One of the problems we are facing in our project is getting volunteers to help us with woodcutting and driving the vehicles for hauling water and wood," Billie added.
Drake talked about the need to cut firewood before the Coconino National Forest is closed for the winter.
Montour and Jones explained their plan to take on roof repair projects for different elders in the community.
"Last year we worked on sheep corrals and the roofs of sheep sheds," Montour said. "This year we will work on the elders' roofs."
Solomon said that she had participated in visiting elderly Navajo nursing home residents and other elderly within the community. "I want to visit elders who are lonely and who need help," Afton said. "Last year we cooked for elders in the nursing home and visited them to cheer them up. We also went to different houses and did chores for them. I want to keep doing that kind of work, maybe having a food drive. Next week my class will be taking plants that we potted and took care of to give elders as gifts."
Wilson talked about the traditional relationship between the Navajo people and animals.
"A lot of people think that Navajos mistreat their animals," Wilson said. "Non-Indians who see sheep dogs on the reservation do not understand that they are working animals. They are raised and fed with the sheep so that they will stay with the sheep. They are not babied, or they will not do their jobs."
Wilson plans on producing a book of interviews conducted with Navajo sheepherders and cowboys in the Leupp area that will be shared with local animal shelters.
Ralph Drake, father of Crystal, and co-director of the STAR School Arizona Learn and Serve Program, explained his goals for the students he brought to camp.
"It is important to me to help guide our students in setting their own goals and what they want to achieve in their own lives," Drake said. "Since our Learn and Serve Project is student-driven, the students set their own goals and by reaching those goals, their futures will be more promising. If we as mentors did the planning and work for them, it would just be babysitting. If they do it themselves, I know our students will achieve more in the future."
Troy Yazzie, Alec Alcott and Louis Chuyate, students of Winslow High School's On-Site Construction class, talked about their ongoing project.
I enjoyed being at camp, where I've made new friendships," Chuyate said. "I have better knowledge on how to communicate, how to state points more clearly and to listen to what others have to say. I also learned that even a small project can make a big difference in a community."
"It's good to understand what you're doing," Yazzie said. "I've made friendships here, and learned how to meet people in a good way."
Yazzie said that working on the housing project has made him feel good. "I am not lazy. I don't want to go home all the time and just sit down and watch television. I like being busy."
Alcott, who lost his voice by the third day of camp, whispered, "What they said."
Their instructor, John Maine, said that the project won a Governor's Award for Volunteerism.
"We started the program building one house in the parking lot on school property," Maine said. "We sold that house to a local contractor who moved it three blocks away and finished it. Our current house was started on land acquired by the school, and will be the first of eight houses in an affordable housing subdivision." Maine said that basically the house would be auctioned at cost.
"Where I see success," Maine said, "is our students are working with contractors after graduation. Other students have built storage sheds on their own time for their mom or their neighbors. One of my students is in the construction program at Yavapai College. We've definitely seen some good results from our kids getting hands-on experience and putting it to good use.
Analisa Valencia, Francis Ortiz, Alina L. Molina, Kateri Stevens, and Valentino Molina represented Pascua Yaqui and Tohono O'odham. They explained their project, which involved designing school gardens. The students explained the problem these tribes have experienced with diabetes, and how they looked to native foods and vegetables to address this.
"We will make better use of our garden spaces, taking away weeds and using the areas for Native Arts class," one student explained. "We will also grow food that we will use on our Annual Traditional Foods Day."
Another student held a poster the group designed showing the three garden areas at the school.
Farmer and his group has been the recipient of a Learn and Serve grant for several years. At previous Learn and Serve events, Farmer's acorn meal cookies and brownies were a big hit.
During the talent contest held Thursday evening, native voices and culture were shared with others. The STAR School students performed a pow-wow song while their adult advisors led the large crowd in a massive round dance. Yazzie, from Winslow High, sang three Native American Church songs.