Gathering focuses on opportunities for Hopi and Tewa young people

Susan Secakuku leads a session during a recent Hopi Opportunity Youth Initiative gathering. Stan Bindell/NHO

Susan Secakuku leads a session during a recent Hopi Opportunity Youth Initiative gathering. Stan Bindell/NHO

KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. - Hopi Opportunity Youth Initiative (HOYI) put on a gathering recently at the Hopi Veterans Memorial Center to talk about supporting Hopi and Tewa youth. Now, the group is organizing the information to see how to move forward.

The gathering was to facilitate conversations with youth, young adults and local service providers. Various community members and volunteers acted as facilitators. The focus of the gathering was to find ways to strengthen pathways and understanding among Hopi and Tewa youth and service providers to create a positive network of support for future generations.

The main sessions at the gathering were about leadership programs and exploration, high schools and alternative programs, education beyond high school, and employment through self-employment, military, government, non-profit jobs and local businesses.

Monica Nuvamsa, executive director of the Hopi Foundation, said the intent of the gathering was to engage youth and partners in the community to develop a common Hopi vision of how disengaged youth can gain the vocational or professional skills needed to contribute to the community. Also, to identify how to continue to build a local economy which will serve the youth as well as Hopi and Tewa values.

"The gathering also provided a connection to resources available to them from the educational, governmental, tribal, independent business and non-profit sector," she said. "This is a starting point for our youth to be part of developing strategies for building and strengthening opportunities that can enhance their success."

Nuvamsa said the gathering went well because the partners helped to bring youth to the event to hear their thoughts. She said that while the attendance was not large those that were there were able to have a good dialogue with the youth who felt at-risk or disengaged from the opportunities that might be available to them.

"We also had representation from youth who are engaged and seeking direct opportunities for themselves," she said.

Most of the youth who attended the event were from Hopi High School.

Nuvamsa said the gathering gave those attending a chance to learn more about the challenges that youth face accessing existing services and resources.

"We learned that youth are considering their options much more than the adult community gives them credit for," she said. "We learned that service providers, employers and educators are open to the new ways to engage youth and increase the opportunities that currently exist. We learned that youth want to see more provided to them by way of work-learn programs, internships, career development and experiential ways of discovering their own purpose in life, including not having to leave home and lose the opportunity to participate in cultural activities and learning."

Nuvamsa said the follow-up to the gathering has begun by having a conversation with participants and by preparing discussions around the issues, such as education beyond high school and employment.

The youth attending the gathering said they want to see more of these gatherings either annually or semi-annually.

The gathering had a lot of in-kind support from Aspen Institute, Hopi Foundation, Arizona Community Foundation, Hopi Guidance Center, Hopi Tribe and programs, Native Americans for Community Action and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Nuvamsa felt the goals of the gathering were met.

"The gathering helped to bring everyone together in the same space and invite new voices to help refine and shape the version that our youth have identified for themselves," she said.

Nuvamsa said teenagers can get more involved by connecting with HOYI.

"Talk to a counselor, volunteer with our youth programs and educate yourselves," she said.

Youth can start by calling Kyle Knox at HOYI at (928) 734-2380.

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