FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - A new youth council for Native American youth between the ages of 14-25 in the Flagstaff-area and northern Arizona wants to address the serious lack of youth programs and positive youth-oriented activities for Native American youth
The Reach UR Life Youth Council hopes to help turn the tide on many social ills plaguing Native American youth. The council is organized under the auspices of the Reach UR Life Program, which is a suicide prevention program Native Americans for Community Action Inc. (NACA), an urban Indian program servicing the Flagstaff-area, runs.
The council, which is now chartered with the United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY), plans to recruit more youth participants and to provide a safe place for positive engagement and activities. The council also plans to teach youth to become peer mentors to other youth, and to help build valuable leadership and communications skills while developing life-long skills.
With peer mentors, the council hopes to address suicide, which has reached crisis levels nationally. Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst Native American youth nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is two-and-a-half times the national rate for youth ages 14-24.
Eudora Redhouse, a Navajo tribal member from Shiprock, New Mexico, is the youth advisor for the youth council, and also works as the youth development and support coordinator at NACA.
She explained that the Reach UR Life Program (RUL), which is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, is a suicide prevention program that strives to empower youth to choose life. The youth council idea came about as a result of the need for such services in Flagstaff and in northern Arizona, and a need to create a program that helps train youth leaders to become peer mentors, to promote youth leadership, community involvement and positive role modeling.
The RUL program is working to develop a Native Youth Support Line which will service communities within northern Arizona to address the serious public health concern of suicide. Youth Council members will have the opportunity to be part of this peer-to-peer support system.
"There are warning signs and strategies that can be observed to prevent suicide," Redhouse said.
Aside from promoting suicide prevention, the youth council has many community projects and programs planned that will provide youth a positive outlet.
Darrien Benally, 19, is the president of the youth council and has been extremely busy advocating for youth issues recently in Denver, Colorado and then in Washington, D.C. She explained the youth council is busy recruiting new members from the Flagstaff-area and within northern Arizona to help in their effort.
In April, the youth council participated in Earth Day projects in the Flagstaff-area, and they continue fundraising efforts for their trip to UNITY.
"Currently, we are fundraising to raise funds for our travel expenses to attend UNITY's 40th annual National Conference in Oklahoma City in July," Benally said.
Recently, the youth council participated in a two-day workshop facilitated by Native STAND, Students Together Against Negative Decisions, during spring break. This workshop was designed to promote healthy decision-making by youth council members.
The council has a lot planned for its inaugural year. As new members join, organizers will plan more projects and continue fundraising efforts.
The youth council's leadership includes: President Darrien Benally, 19, a Navajo tribal member from Flagstaff; Vice President Aaron Torivio, 18, a Hopi tribal member from Flagstaff; Sevretary Amber Carrol, 16, a Navajo tribal member from Flagstaff; and Treasurer Joshua Carroll, 14, a Navajo tribal member from Flagstaff.
More information about the Reach UR Life Youth Council is available from Eudora Redhouse at (928) 526-2968, ext. 129.