UNITY Begins New Era on July 1
After more than 37 years, a major leadership change will occur for United National Indian Tribal Youth, Inc. aka UNITY, a national non-profit youth leadership organization. Mary Kim Titla, a San Carlos Apache, will become Executive Director on July 1 as UNITY’s founder JR Cook, Cherokee, steps aside after leading the organization since its birth in 1976. Titla, who attended one of UNITY’s first youth leadership conferences, has been serving part-time as Associate Director since April 1 and is coordinating the upcoming National UNITY Conference in Woodland Hills, California.
“I’m humbled and honored to be serving Indian Country in this capacity. I’ve come full circle having been part of UNITY as a kid, then serving as a member of its board of Trustees and now Executive Director. No one can fill the shoes of JR Cook who has worked tirelessly over the last 37 years to make this organization what it is today. Through UNITY JR has touched the lives of thousands of people like me who are now UNITY alumni. I will do my best in continuing this important work,” said Titla, who will base her office in the Phoenix area.
Titla is known to many in Indian Country as a former TV News journalist, with a career spanning 20 years at NBC stations in Arizona. In 2008 Titla’s announcement and candidacy for Arizona’s Congressional District 1 catapulted her into the national spotlight. During the last five years Titla has worked as a school administrator in the San Carlos Unified School District and served as advisor to the San Carlos Apache Youth Council. Last year, Titla received the first Edward Wadda UNITY Alumni Award. The award was presented to Titla for “continuing the spirit of UNITY,” in part for her leadership role in raising half-a-million dollars for UNITY through golf tournaments in Arizona.
“Following Cook’s announcement to step aside, a national search for a new CEO was launched. Trustees selected Titla to not only help the organization survive, but to thrive. We feel Mary Kim is the right person at the right time,” said Loretta A. Tuell, chair of UNITY’s Council of Trustees.
“It has been quite a journey. Thanks to our Creator, trustees, staff, alumni, youth, youth council advisors, consultants, volunteers, and supporters who have helped build UNITY and are, in effect, the owners. And thanks to Mary Kim for her willingness to accept the leadership position during these challenging times,” commented Cook.
Choosing to not use the term “retirement,” Cook plans to continue to be supportive of UNITY; write the history of the organization; avail himself for limited consulting; spend more time making therapy team visits with his dog pal, Jake; and devote some quality time with his family.