Meet the New 25 UNDER 25 Class Members
Meet the new 25 UNDER 25 class members who were honored at the 2016 National UNITY Conference in Oklahoma City in July.
Birk Albert, 17, Athabascan, Lake Placid, NY: Henry “Birk” Albert is a member of the Koyukon Athabascan Nation from the village of Ruby, Alaska. He currently resides in Lake Placid, New York where he will be entering his senior year in high school this fall. Over this past year he has broadened his experiences and reconnected to Native communities because of UNITY and CNAY. Birk was among those selected to attend the White House Tribal Youth Gathering and the Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, DC last July. He was selected as a UNITY Earth Ambassador and has been able to share his viewpoint as an Indigenous youth raised in a subsistence bush lifestyle through speeches and slideshows. He has worked tirelessly to increase awareness about climate change and Alaska’s future through his school Environmental Club and the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit. Birk was instrumental in connecting New York and Alaska youth to work towards realizing youth driven climate summits where participants can share, take action and work collectively to address climate change. Birk likes to play Varsity soccer, study history and use social media to promote opportunities and progressive ideas among Native youth – GenIzine.blogspot.com.
Caitlin Bordeaux, 24, Rosebud Sioux, St. Francis, SD: Caitlin Bordeaux graduated from Black Hills State University with a major in Graphic Design and Communication and is a certified teacher in the state of South Dakota. After graduating college, she interned in Washington, DC through the Washington Internships for Native Students (WINS) Program. During her time in DC, she realized that her true passion was to work with youth in her community. Caitlin started teaching computer science/multimedia classes at St. Francis Indian School in 2015. She is an avid supporter of the arts, Computer Science for All, and Generation Indigenous. In the near future, Caitlin plans to pursue her master’s in education at Harvard University. She is grateful for this opportunity to work with inspiring Natives and to gain leadership skills to help better her community!
Seth Cooper, 19, Walker River Paiute/Assiniboine/Muscogee Creek, Glendale, AZ: Seth Cooper is 19 years old, a follower of Christ Jesus as a born again Christian and a musician. He play multiple instruments, including guitar, drums, and vocals, and uses his musical capabilities to further pursue his walk in Jesus by performing live worship music and creating songs for God, whether they be jam or worship songs. Seth loves to write fictional narratives as well as draw works of art and create artwork using the media arts of videography and photography. He prides himself in be4ing a “geek” for Star Wars.
Michele Danner, 18, Inupiaq, Anchorage, AK: Michele Danner is the daughter of Scott and Corrine Danner and spent her childhood in Barrow Alaska, her home-village. She graduated high school on the lush island of Kauai, Hawaii, the homeland of her Grandmother. She is currently schooling at the University of Alaska Anchorage for a Bachelor of Science degree in Construction Management, and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Architectural Engineering Technology. Michele spends her free time creating films, working as an intern for Native corporations, and speaking publicly about community issues. Michele is passionate about the success of Native communities, and plans to stay in Alaska so that she can continue to serve her own community.
Sarah De Herrera, 21, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Santa Clarita, CA: Sarah De Herrera, ‘Hvttapvshshik Okchako’ (Blue Butterfly), is a proud member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and is well known for singing the National Anthem in Choctaw. She began her college career at 14 by simultaneously enrolling at College of the Canyons and Academy of the Canyons Middle College High School. She is a senior at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona majoring in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management and Human Resources, as well as minoring in Native American Studies. Sarah is a recipient of the Don Huntley Scholarship and has been a member of seven different campus organizations including the title of Engineering Council Representative for AISES. A participant and supporter of her university’s Native community by advocating higher education to high school students through the N.A.T.I.V.E. Pipeline program, she currently is a Research Assistant and Student Ambassador. Sarah also serves as a Board Member, Ambassador, and Chair for Social Media & Web Development for Okla Chahta Clan of California, a non-profit organization that preserves Choctaw cultural activities through their annual gathering in Bakersfield, CA. In addition, Sarah is a member of Okla Chahta Clan’s California Choctaw Youth Association where she leads a Generation Indigenous project called “Mentorship in the Digital Age” with seven other youth leaders and was selected to visit Washington, D.C. for the first ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering. Her future plans include becoming a Business professor and the first in her family to earn her doctorate degree while continuing to support and promote higher education for Native American youth.
Cierra Fields, 16, Cherokee Nation, Fort Gibson, OK: Cierra “Little Water” Fields, Cherokee Nation, is a 16 year old Junior from Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. Cierra is a two time cancer survivor who travels across Oklahoma sharing her personal story of survival and how to prevent cancer. She advocates at a State and National level for cancer research funding and palliative care for Natives. Cierra created the Charles Head Memorial Native Youth Summit of Oklahoma and has hosted 200+ youth representing 19 tribal nations to tackle subjects such as sexual assault, domestic violence, human trafficking, racism, education, suicide prevention, health care, cancer prevention, and much more. She is currently a youth advisor for the Center for Native American Youth, youth cabinet member of NCAI, and a Board of Director for Urban Indian Youth Alliance. She has created the non-profit “Southeastern Woodland Tribal Youth Art Guild” to teach rare woodland arts to youth free of charge and preserve these arts for future generations. In her free time, Cierra is a national award winning textile artist who most recently won Best of Show Youth at the 2016 Trail of Tears Art Show and Cherokee Art Market with a full-length feather cape. She carves traditional masks, sculpts, paints, and beads.
Anissa Garcia, 21, Akimel O’odham, Sacaton, AZ: Anissa Angel Garcia is 21 years old, Akimel O’odham residing in Ge’e Ki (Sacaton) of the Gila River Indian Community. Daughter of Mario Garcia and Darren Pedro-Martinez; granddaughter of Manfred Garcia and the late Charlotte Garcia, the late Marvin Juan and the late Leatrice Juan. Graduate of Vechij Himdag MashchamakuD and attending Central Arizona College. Anissa is currently interning for the Gila River Indian Community Utility Authority board and works as a Recreation Aide in Vah Ki, Arizona (D5). She is a former member of the Akimel O’odham/Pee-Posh Youth Council 2012-2015 and former Miss Gila River Second Attendant 2014-2015. Anissa is also a basket dancer who dances with Keli Akimel Hua Modk Cudkdam and plays Toka (a tradition o’odham women’s game) with Oñk Akimel Sivliki.
Mariah Gladstone, 22, Blackfeet, Kalispell, MT: Mariah Gladstone (Blackfeet/Cherokee) graduated Columbia University last May with a degree in Environmental Engineering. During her time there, she was an instrumental part of the university’s Native American Council where she implemented programming around indigenous issues including environmental activism, Native humor, and physical and nutritional wellness. She has returned to her hometown of Kalispell, Montana where she balances a job in engineering management with activism in Indian Country. Besides working on environmental and health issues, Mariah keeps active by dancing hula, kayaking, and doing acrobatics. She also teaches classes in Native plant identification, traditional games, and a powwow zumba class.
Shandiin Gorman, 17, Navajo, Mesa, AZ: Shandiin Gorman is a senior at Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona. She will enter Arizona State University’s Barrett’s Honors College and the Walter Cronkite Program. She plans to major in Journalism and minor in American Indian studies. Shandiin was an active member of the Mesa Strength Youth Council all through her high school years. She has attended UNITY conferences and is excited to continue being active in supporting UNITY and its mission throughout college.
Vance Home Gun, 22, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Arlee, MT: Vance Home Gun was 19 years old when he received the great honor of being named a 2013 Champion For Change. Vance began achieving these honors at a very young age and continues to be a strong advocate, instructor and mentor for the preservation of tribal languages and cultures. Currently 22 years old, Vance is a proud member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana will graduate from Rhema Bible College in Tulsa, Oklahoma May 2016. Vance’s biggest highlight since becoming a CFC is seeing all the smiles and bravery Indian Country still continues to hold close. Vance’s faith in God and the wisdom of his elders gives him the strength he needs to continue this great work for our Native American People.
“Young people need role models in life, who live a life of honor, where there leadership motives are truthful and live a 100% drug and alcohol free lifestyle”
Sarah Jones, 22, Chickasaw Nation, Ada, OK: Sarah Jones lives in Ada, Oklahoma. She recently graduated from East Central University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication. While at ECU, Jones served as a member of the Alpha Chi National College Honor Society and Sigma Tau Delta. She works as an Interactive Media Specialist for the Chickasaw Nation. Her position entails shooting and editing videos to share on various Chickasaw Nation social media outlets; she helps keep citizens and non-citizens informed about Chickasaw Nation programs and events. Along with monitoring social media outlets and doing research concerning topics that relate to Chickasaw history. Jones has won numerous awards for her photography and radio features. She was also selected for the Native American Journalists Association Fellowship in 2014. Jones is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women, Ada Arts Council and Young Professionals of Ada Chamber of Commerce.
Rebecca Kirk, 24, Klamath, Seattle, WA: Rebecca is a member of the Klamath tribes, as well as Leech lake Ojibwe. Since 2013 she has worked as a Native theatre arts music teacher and recently a theatre arts director for a Native youth theatre based acting company in Seattle Washington. Rebecca is also a talent manager, youth mentor, hand drum and contemporary music artist. She travels all around Indian country with her brother model and actor Dyami, speaking about issues concerning Native youth. As certified suicide prevention peer counselors Rebecca and her brother work to create positive change in Indian country. “Native youth leading youth”.
JoRee LaFrance, 20, Crow Nation, Crow Agency, MT: JoRee’s LaFrance Apsaalookè (Crow) name is Iichiinmaachileesh, which means Fortunate with Horses. She is a member of the Crow Nation of Montana and a member of the Greasy Mouth clan and child of the Ties The Bundle clan, born and raised on the Crow reservation in Southeastern Montana. JoRee is the daughter of Lissa White Clay and Andre LaFrance. She has a twin sister, Taylor, three younger siblings, TyRyssa, KrayTei, and Strann, and a nephew, Jaymason. She is currently a junior at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she is working towards a double-major in earth sciences and Native American studies, with a minor in anthropology. JoRee is interested in energy development and tribal public policy where she aspires to work under the Department of Energy in the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs.
William Lucero, 19, Lummi, Ferndale, WA
Jessica McCool, 18, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Solvang, CA: Jessica McCool is a member of the Santa Ynez Samala Chumash, otherwise known as the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians in California. She is majoring in sociology at Chapman University. Last year, she was selected to go to the White House 2014 Tribal Nations Conference in Washington D.C. It was then that her life changed. She met so many great people and got involved with organizations working to create more opportunities for Native youth, one of them being UNITY. Afterwards, she served on the first White House Tribal Youth Gathering Steering Committee advocating for Native youth across the country. She was appointed as a UNITY Earth Ambassador and since then, she has attended conferences, team building opportunities, spoken on panels, and been a peer mentor for Today’s Native Leaders while conversing with fellow Earth Ambassadors on issues regarding the well-being of Mother Earth. They have each shared and conducted projects that address environmental issues in Native communities. As a 25 Under 25 recipient, Jessica plans to continue bettering Native America through implementing projects and hope in Native youth. She is very honored to have been given this opportunity to keep creating change not only in her community, but in tribal communities across the country.
Lakota Pochedley, 24, Citizen Potawatomi, Shawnee, OK: Lakota Pochedley is Bodewadmi from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and lives in Shawnee, Oklahoma. She is a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, working on her Master of Arts degrees in Cultural Studies in Education and Secondary Social Studies Education within the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. She will graduate this May and continue working for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation as their Cultural Education Specialist. She dedicated to furthering youth, inter-generational, and intertribal community building and healing programs/initiatives that center neshnabe language and culture. She is a member of the Etem Omvlkusen UNITY Council, and has served in leadership positions for her respective university Native American organizations.
Dyami Thomas, 22, Klamath/Leech Lake Ojibway, Seattle, WA: Dyami is a Professional Model/Actor, motivational speaker, youth mentor and Certified suicide prevention peer councilor. He is an enrolled member of the Klamath tribes and also Leech Lake Ojibwe. Dyami has been modeling professionally since the age of 17. ABC Model & Talent was his first modeling home and he currently reside with an agency based in Oregon. He travels all over the country with his sister (Becca Kirk) speaking to youth about suicide prevention, resiliency, dream building and motivation. His is committed to mentoring as many youth as he can on a personal level and show them that any goal in life is truly possible to reach. In his spare time, Dyami coaches 8th grade and high school basketball for youth in Portland. He and his family do an annual food drive for the homeless people living in the city of Portland. Both Dyami and his sister Becca live a drug and alcohol free lifestyle. Their mother (Stephanie Smith) taught them to lead by example and that’s how they choose to live their lives.
Claullen Tillman, 20, Eastern Shoshone, Lander, WY: Claullen is a 21 year old member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe. He comes from the heart of the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming. He attended school off of the reservation and graduated from Lander Valley High School, receiving the Hathaway scholarship and a student of the year nomination. Claullen is currently enrolled at the local Junior College working on his associates degree. He plans to transfer to Haskell or the University of Wyoming to work towards both his bachelor’s and master’s degree in business administration. Claullen’s interests include helping the Wind River UNITY Council when he isn’t at work at his tribe’s casino; volunteering wherever he can help, and spending time with his family.
DeLesslin George Warren, 24, Catawba, Washington, DC: DeLesslin “Roo” George-Warren grew up with one moccasin in the small city of Rock Hill, SC and the other in the Catawba Indian Reservation. After graduating with a Bachelor of Music in May 2014 from Vanderbilt University, where he received several awards and served in campus leadership positions, he took part in the Humanity-in-Action program in Copenhagen. Since relocating to the District of Columbia he has continued performing, creating, and lecturing throughout the east coast including Nashville, Washington, Baltimore, New York City, Ithaca, and Charleston. Current projects include Histories a performance-lecture about the great history of the Catawba Indian Nation, Indigenous Corps of Discovery an indigenous tour of the Presidential Portrait Gallery at the National Portrait Gallery, and co-founding Indigenous Youth for Peace.
Rory Wheeler, 18, Seneca Nation, Irving, NY: Rory C. Wheeler, Turtle Clan, Seneca Nation has always taken pride in making his community a better place. Rory is currently serving as a Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician for his nation, the youngest in Company history. This past February, Rory was awarded one of the Top Responders for the Department. Rory has served his community on a national stage serving as a White House Youth Ambassador, Generation Indigenous and We R Native Ambassador, enchanting the voices of Native Youth on a national stage. Rory is also serving as a Peer Mentor for the Seneca Nation Native Connections youth group, mentoring the community youth on taking leadership in their community and striving for their best. Nya:wëh.
Brayden White, 21, St. Regis Mohawk, Hogansburg, NY: Brayden Sonny White is a St. Regis Mohawk from the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation. What inspires Brayden is that he believes that all youth are capable of great things and he would like to help them achieve the opportunities that they’re deserving of. Brayden has served in numerous positions as the SLC Aboriginal Advisor, Founder of NASAC, Haudenosaunee Student Alliance member, WHTNC Presidential Panelist, Akwesasne Youth Council Representative, Akwesasne Suicide Coalition Member, Gen-I National Native Youth Network Ambassador. Brayden has also been coaching local youth sports for more than five years.
Eric Woody, 17, Navajo, Kirtland, NM: Eric H. Woody is currently attending Navajo Preparatory School, located in Farmington, New Mexico. He is an enrolled member of the great Navajo Nation. His clans are (Bit’ahnii) Within His Cover, born for (Tachinii) Red Streaked Temple Area of the Face clan. His maternal grandfather is of the (To’aheedliinii)Water Flow Together clan and my paternal grandfather is of the (Naasht’ezhi Dine) Zuni clan. He lives in Kirtland, New Mexico with his parents, Michelle and Harrison Woody. His older sister currently attends Arizona State University.
After high school Eric plans to attend Arizona State University and study health sciences. Eric plans to move back to the reservation after attending Arizona State University to open a health clinic on the reservation because of the great lack of health resources. In the future, he would also like to hold a position on the Navajo Nation council. During his free time Eric a photographer and enjoys hanging out with friends, playing football, and exploring historical sites.