Youth Council kicks off fiscal year with valuable work session
October 7, 2016
Gila River Indian News
The unofficial slogan of the Akimel O’otham/Pee Posh Youth Council could be “Work Hard, Play Hard,” a motto its students lived out at the group’s annual get-to-know-you weekend last month.
The orientation work session, held from Sept. 23-25 at the District 2 Multipurpose Building, brought together experienced youth council members and incoming members to develop relationships and help them work together better going into the new year.
“The work session is a couple of different things,” said Michael Preston, Youth Council Coordinator. “We work on team-building because half of the members are new, so we need to pull them into the fold with the current and on-going members.”
The first night of the work session consisted primarily of icebreakers, games, and laughter to help students get comfortable with one another. Students shared traditional O’otham songs, roasted marshmallows, and raced around the basketball court.
But the weekend wasn’t all fun and games.
Preston said the orientation also asks the students “to start thinking in a sense larger than themselves. For them to see…their importance to their family, and definitely their importance to the Community, and how they can contribute.”
In orientation, the new members learned what it takes to be on the Youth Council.
The orientation covers the purpose and functions of the AOPPYC, the history of the program, policies and procedures, parliamentary order, ethics and expectations, the youth council constitution and bylaws, and other necessary information for all members.
Shortly after orientation, the current members convened for an official AOPPYC meeting as the soon-to-be members watched on.
Youth Council members are expected to attend two regular AOPPYC meetings a month, plus district meetings in the district they represent. Members also regularly volunteer to set up, serve or facilitate at various Community events throughout the year, and they must complete one community service project that they create and organize.
The council members also learn a lot about GRIC culture and history, and share what they have learned with youth from other tribes.
On Saturday afternoon, the students visited the Youth Council chambers in Sacaton and learned from national Native youth leadership trainer Pearl Yellowman, Ph.D. (Navajo).
She asked the students to start thinking long-term by having them craft mission statements and practice setting goals. She also ran a critical thinking activity where students worked on listening and understanding the perspectives of others by having the group contribute different thoughts on a single photo.
“This weekend what I really liked was the whole team-building, and our guest speaker, and just learning how Youth Council works and what we’re expected to do [as representatives],” said Shantell Terrazas, 17.
Terrazas said she views herself as a leader and is seeking ways to grow in that area. The new District 3 representative said by joining the youth council, “I hope to be able to meet new people, meet elders, meet people on [Community] Council, to get a feel of what our reservation, what our whole Community is about, and to be able to learn more about how we run our own Community.”
Randel Curran is also a new AOPPYC member. “I joined Youth Council to gain opportunities to learn about my culture,” he said.
Curran is engaged in several clubs and athletics groups at Coolidge High School.
“I hope to gain leadership skills and communication skills that I can use later on in life,” he said. “I’d like to give back to the Community. I’d like to see the youth more involved in wanting to revive our language.”
Elleno Bandin, District 5, said, “I joined Youth Council because...I’ve been through a lot, but the youth out there, there are some that aren’t in school…and I wanted to be a good role model.” Bandin is working on getting his GED and plans on attending Arizona State University in the near future.
Bandin said he sees the struggles his peers go through, “And it makes me feel like I need to make a change.” He said, “I’m hoping to...show my community that I can be a better person than what I was [in the past] and they’ve seen the improvement…and that’s making them happy, by showing them I care for my community.”
Being on youth council can be a life-changing experience.
Preston said, “When I was a teenager, when I got on Youth Council, it helped me to develop into the person I am today. It challenged me to think bigger than myself. … So I want that same opportunity for the young people I work with.”
The youth council year begins in October with the induction of new members and the election of new executive officers. The Youth Council voted in new members at the Gila River Youth Conference in July, and elected new executive officers at a meeting on Oct. 1.
They will be inducted into office at an inauguration ceremony on Oct. 22.