Native American students have chance to win $2,000 scholarship
Essay contest recognizes Native American youth

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. —The Frank Harrison and Harry Austin Voting Rights Essay Contest offers Native American college students a chance to win a $2,000 scholarship.

This voting rights essay recognizes American Indian youth who are determined to uplift the voices of their peers and community members by participating in civic engagement efforts.

Jason Beard, youth engagement coordinator for the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, said the essay contest is important because it’s essential to get youth to vote and to be engaged even in non-election years.

Beard said the contest is in its second year and that much work remains to be done.

“The youth need to hear the cool things we are doing,” Beard said. “This is a cool engaging way for the youth to hear what people are doing and reward winners to help them advance in their post-secondary education.”

Beard said the essay contest is important because they want to get the youth engaged.

“It starts with the youth,” he said. “If we can get them to vote in county and state elections, that’s a big deal. We want them participating and talking to friends and family. This is one of the big steps to enhance voting.”

Beard said a good number of Native American college students are involved in voting and issues involving voting.

“A lot of Native students are excited about it,” he said.

He believes Native American voters made a difference in last year’s election in Arizona.

“But there is still room to grow,” he said. “We want to do creative things to get communities involved.”

Beard said he hopes the contest will inspire more native youth to get involved because it can help them with their post-secondary education.

“Just asking questions sparks the process, putting thoughts on paper inspires them,” he said.

Beard said suffrage is the most important right of a democracy and ensures voices are heard.

“This is the best way to pay homage to those who fought for the right to vote,” he said. “I’m really fortunate to work on this program.”

If any Native American college students are unsure if they should submit an essay, he wants to encourage them to do so.

“We will be looking at every application. It’s not just about winning but about getting information out so please, please participate,” he said.

Beard, who is non-Native, earned a degree in American history from St. Martins University in Washington State. He also works on ITCA’s summer EBT program and works with 20 schools to provide food programs during the summer when some youth would not otherwise get meals.

Beard said the vote does not stop after Election Day. He said it is “a new beginning towardd the future of your community.”

Beard said the Arizona legislature continues to meet on issues that directly impact everyone’s family and friends.

“As citizens, it is your duty to follow your vote and ensure local, state and federal officials are acting on the issues that are most important to you,” Beard said.

History of Native Americans right to vote

On July 15, 1948, a court decision by the Supreme Court of Arizona granted American Indians the right to vote due to the commitment of Frank Harrison and Harry Austin.

Today, Native Americans celebrate their achievements by participating in local, state and federal elections. In Arizona, tribal communities were among those who showed up to the polls in record numbers during the 2020 general election.

Frank Harrison and Harry Austin were pivotal in achieving voting rights for American Indians in Arizona. The Scholarship Essay Contest seeks to honor their legacy.

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