Native Youth Service Projects Highlight Today’s Native Leaders National Summit in Denver – UNITY, Inc.

Native Youth Service Projects Highlight Today’s Native Leaders National Summit in Denver

Native American youth councils and groups from around the country shared with more than 200 of their peers on a national stage, at times with deep emotions, how they gave back to their local communities. The event took place on Thursday, July 6 at the Today’s Native Leaders (TNL) National Summit at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Denver. Today’s Native Leaders is a partnership between UNITY, which stands for United National Indian Tribal Youth and the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

Members of the Sicangu Youth Council from Rosebud, South Dakota became emotional as they spoke about their repatriation efforts concerning the children who died while at the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in the late 19th century. Through the Today’s Native Leaders training offered nationwide, youth councils and groups learned valuable skills that enabled them to design a service project and follow it through to completion. The TNL training involves a culturally relevant action planning curriculum. Others who shared their TNL projects at the National Summit included:

  • Mesa Strength Youth Council, Mesa, Arizona – 
    Lil Stars Health and Fitness Camp which entailed educating 1st – 8th graders about the importance of healthy living & Taste of the Southwest where youth councils prepared and shared traditional foods with UNITY Midyear participants.
  • Chahta Alla Youth Council, Choctaw, Mississippi – 
    Alcohol Abuse Awareness Day included peer presentations, an alcohol awareness survey, an impairment goggles experience, and skits.
  • Horse Creek UNITY Youth Council, Whiteriver, South Dakota – 
    Health and Fitness Family Kickball Tournament was a sober, drug-freeevent where teams made up of family members from kids to elders experienced a fun event as a family in a positive environment.
  • Rosebud Sioux Tribe Sicangu Youth Council, Rosebud, South Dakota – 
    Cultural Healing: Bringing Our Relatives Home focused on youth efforts to bring home the remains of tribal members buried at Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania.
  • Cheyenne and Arapaho Youth Council, Concho, Oklahoma – 
    Sports and Fitness Camp targeted youth in the community to provide basic education in living a healthy lifestyle.
  • Tsedildoii Community Youth Group, Hard Rock, Arizona – 
    Tsedildoii Youth Summit was held to educate youth at the Rocky Ridge Boarding School about restoring Dine’ (Navajo) culture and language in order to stop violence and instead promote healing in the community.
  • Henrietta “Raven” Stanley, Lumberton, North Carolina – 
    2017 UNCG Powwow served as a social and cultural gathering to bring together all of the Native American college students in the state.
  • Kenai Peninsula Native Youth Leadership, Sterling, Alaska – 
    Cultural Exchange Mask Art Installation where youth took a traditional art form and used contemporary media to create masks that identify their unique qualities and strengths as Native youth leaders & Kenai Peninsula Home-School Prom held for home-schooled youth to provide an opportunity to be a part of social activities during their educational years.
  • Page High School UNITY Club, Page, Arizona – 
    Winter Culture Night brought the community together for traditional Navajo food tasting, storytelling, fashion show, crafts, and games.
  • Bishop Tribal Youth Council, Bishop, California – 
    Be Smart, Your Body is a Work of Art was a day dedicated to combating substance abuse with art therapy, music, physical activity, and a tribute to remember those who have paid the ultimate price because of addiction.

National Summit participants also took part in break-out sessions where peer leaders who mastered aspects of the training curricula and presenting groups led group exercises to discuss and brainstorm ways to take action and truly make a difference in their communities.

The TNL program empowers participants to set high goals, step out of their comfort zone, and embrace healthy choices. The TNL events included team building activities, action planning & event promotion, developing community service projects, and how to create a UNITY youth council. Each training also featured youth peer educators and peer leaders working alongside adult trainers.

For more information about the TNL trainings, call Lynnann Yazzie at (480) 718-9793 or email her at  For information about UNITY go to

This project was supported by 2013-TY-FX-K008 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs.

TNL youth and peer educators listen to groups present on their community service projects at the Today’s Native Leaders National Summit.
Page High School UNITY Club from Page, Arizona presenting on their “Winter Culture Night” project.
Kenai Peninsula Native Youth Leaders (KPNYL) from Homer, Alaska presenting on their Cultural Exchange Mask Art Installation and Home School Youth Prom.
TNL Advisory Committee member Kendra Becenti and the Chahta Alla Youth Council facilitate a breakout session titled “Solving Substance Abuse Issues in our Community”.
Eileen M. Garry, Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) shares words of encouragement with TNL youth participants.
Over 250 Native youth and advisors from across the country in attendance at the 2017 Today’s Native Leaders National Summit.
TNL Youth Advisory Committee members, Peer Educators, and Staff are presented with Certificates of Appreciation from OJJDP.