Published On: Mon, Jul 22nd, 2013

Student Opportunities: Center for Native American Youth

Student Opportunities by Constance OwlGreetings fellow Native students! In considering a focus for this week’s article, I found some very disturbing statistics that made me truly appreciate being a member of the Eastern Band. Do you know how fortunate we are to be members of a tribe that has enjoyed economic success and sustainability for many decades? There are many Native American tribes that have not been so fortunate. For the Eastern Band, our home on the Qualla Boundary of beautiful Great Smoky Mountains is a fortunate advantage for tourism.

The majority of Indian Country (and especially for those in remote locations) continues to suffer from high rates of poverty and unemployment with some tribal communities experiencing unemployment rates near 70 percent, additionally, more than 23 percent of all Native Americans live in poverty. Many of the poorest counties in the United States are located on Indian reservations. Because of chronic underfunding in federal housing dollars, many Native youth live in overcrowded dilapidated homes and attend schools which rely on the federal government for funding and yet, remain in critical condition. The result is that these communities suffer high rates of alcohol and substance abuse, violent crime and significant health disparities compared to the rest of America.

Significant obstacles for many Native American youth make it even more challenging to succeed. Did you know that Native students have the highest high school dropout rates, and some of the lowest college enrollment rates in the country? The high school graduation rate for Native students in many states where reservations are located is nearly 50 percent! This unprecedented bruise on tribal societies has caused Native youth in many tribal communities to develop a sense of hopelessness. We clearly see this in the average suicide rates among Native American youth which is 3.5 times the national average with some tribal communities having rates up to 10 times the national average.  But fortunately, there is an organization devoting its efforts to changing the lives and futures of Native students. The Center for Native American Youth has dedicated its mission to improving the health, safety and overall well-being of Native American youth through communication, policy development and advocacy. Founded by former US Senator Byron Dorgan, the Center is a policy program within the Aspen Institute headquartered in Washington, DC. The goal of the center is to bring greater national attention to the issues facing Native American youth, and to foster solutions, with special emphasis on youth suicide prevention.

The national website provides a great array of outlets to assist Native youth in securing internships, scholarships, and youth advocacy and involvement activities. It provides a wealth of information regarding many aspects of Native youth life. Students can sign up to receive notifications regarding many outstanding opportunities to enrich their lives and academic ventures. My email from the organization comes every Wednesday morning and has presented me several opportunities to apply for summer academic camps, scholarships, and internships that I may have missed out on otherwise. It’s a clearinghouse of all things Native youth oriented. If you are a teen struggling with identity issues, health concerns, or other situations where you feel you have nowhere to turn, the organizations features many venues to get youth the counseling, help, intervention, or information you might need to help you through the challenges of teen life. Please visit cnay.org and get involved today! And, always remember how fortunate we are to be Eastern Band and take advantage of the opportunities and advantages your membership provides. Most importantly, lend a hand to a fellow Native student; we are all Native, and therefore, we are all connected in the hope for a better tomorrow for ourselves, our families, and our tribes.

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