ASPEN INSTITUTE’S CENTER FOR NATIVE AMERICAN YOUTH & SENATOR BYRON DORGAN AWARD FIVE NATIVE AMERICAN YOUTH LEADERS
The Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) will announce its second class of Champions for Change, a youth leadership program inspired by a White House initiative. These five youth, ranging from 16 to 23 years old, from Indian tribes from Washington to Oklahoma, are being honored for making a positive impact in Native communities.
The Aspen Instituteis an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visitwww.aspeninstitute.org.
Elizabeth Burns, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
Hometown: Claremore, Oklahoma
Elizabeth, a senior in high school, is passionate about promoting healthy nutrition and obesity prevention. She currently serves as the president of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council and is a mentor to youth who struggle with obesity, self-acceptance, nutrition and eating disorders. Elizabeth is also creating a blog to raise awareness to health and wellness issues impacting Native American youth today.
"I have been told that my dream of helping other Native youth is ridiculous and that I should give up. I realized that negative comments won’t hold me back. I will make my dream a reality."
Danielle Finn, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Hometown: Bismarck, North Dakota
As a recent college graduate, Danielle is a hardworking, positive role model who drives three hours twice a week to teach Head Start students, volunteers as an after school tutor, and serves as a dance teacher in her spare time. She also mentors children within her community and helps address teen pregnancy, alcohol and substance abuse issues among Native Youth through her participation on the Mid Dakota Teen Clinic Advisory Board.
"Donating time to work with Native youth, no matter how much or how little, is still time that could make a huge difference."
William Lucero, Lummi Nation
Hometown: Ferndale, Washington
William, a senior in high school, is part of the Lummi Nation’s Teens Against Tobacco Use (T.A.T.U.) group. The mission of the group is to inform youth and their parents about the hazards of smoking. Through the use of peer-to-peer education, a public service announcement, and an annual "World No Tobacco Day Event," William's peers and the younger generation have become effective enforcers in helping parents who want to stop smoking. T.A.T.U.'s presence on the Lummi Nation has exposed many Native Youth to more positive role models in their community.
"It's time for smokers to quit for their families, our community,
and future generations."
Keith Martinez, Oglala Lakota Sioux
Hometown: Pine Ridge, South Dakota
As a college student, Keith works with the Lakota Children's Enrichment, Inc. (LCE) to fight against poverty and increase educational resources available on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Keith serves as the chair of the Youth Advisory Board with LCE and is also a Youth Ambassador with Youth Service America for the state of South Dakota. Through his ambassadorship, Keith raises awareness about LCE’s efforts and positively impacts hundreds of young people through organizing and leading youth summits, fundraising events, toy drives and writing/art competitions. He is a passion-driven individual who encourages his peers to obtain an education, mentor the younger generations, and get involved to make a positive difference in their communities.
"I want to see today’s youth go out into the world, motivate others, and gain an education
to make a true difference in their communities."
Lauren McLester-Davis, Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin
Hometown: De Pere, Wisconsin
Lauren, a senior in high school, is passionate about providing books to children in need. At an early age, Lauren became a “reading buddy” for children at a local children’s bookstore and noticed the lack of books the children had at home. In response to this, she co-founded First Book - Greater Green Bay in 2007, a volunteer organization that provides books to children in need. First Book - Greater Green Bay serves seven Title I schools, the local Green Bay/De Pere YWCA, Boys and Girls Club of America – Green Bay, the Children’s Miracle network Hospital – Fox Valley, and community libraries. Through fundraising and donations, Lauren has successfully placed over 18,000 new books into the hands of children in need within her community.
"Learning to read is critical to a child’s success both in school and in life. I believe children’s
literacy is the most critical priority for Native youth today."