Category Archives: Program Spotlight

Native Youth Thrive in Tribal Youth Ambassadors Program

Jayden Lim, age 15, speaks on behalf of 2016 NAHYP Awardee, Tribal Youth Ambassadors. Photo credit: Steven E. Purcell.

We are Indian and we are proud. We still sing. We still laugh. We still dream. We still stand. – Jayden Lim

At the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award’s White House ceremony, which honors programs that are national models in the field of creative youth development, Jayden Lim was the youth speaker on behalf of the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center.

Jayden, a young woman from Santa Rosa, CA, shared the stage with First Lady Michelle Obama. With her personal story, Jayden shared the power of the humanities to transform Native youth’s lives:

I am a Pomo Indian from Northern California. In some ways, I am your average 15 year old. I am a sophomore in high school, I love music, and I am currently learning how to drive. In some ways, I am very different from the other students at my school. I run my own DJ business and I work to educate others about California tribal histories and cultures.

With an average graduation rate of 54.5%, Santa Rosa’s Native youth are unlikely to graduate from high school or college. Many are also challenged by high rates of depression and suicide. The Museum’s Tribal Youth Ambassadors program works to combat these challenges by bringing tribal youth together to address their own needs. Ever since engaging these young people after school and in the summer, the Museum has seen 100% of its Tribal Youth Ambassadors program participants graduate—sometimes, with honors.

In this multi-disciplinary program, students aged 9–24 receive humanities lessons, plus Native language, cultural, and multimedia arts training after school, two days a week, for two to four hours. Students learn leadership, public speaking, and presentation skills as well as how to serve as docents.

Students like Jayden gain numerous benefits from the Museum’s positive learning environments. By studying oral history and practicing storytelling, they gain a greater awareness and appreciation of their heritage; they learn their role in promoting intercultural understanding among Native and non-Native communities; they find their voices to express and share their rich history and culture and go out into their communities ready to tackle tribal stereotypes and misinformation.

For Jayden, participation in the Tribal Youth Ambassadors program has empowered her. She feels a tremendous sense of responsibility to dispel misinformation about Native Americans. She advocates for her community, and in her own words, “demonstrates not only how native people survive but how we thrive.”

Drumming & Myth: Healing Urban Youth Through Alchemy

Still from FINDING THE GOLD WITHIN, by Karina EpperleinAlchemy is a nonprofit organization in Akron, OH that provides a safe environment and sense of community to assist in the development of urban adolescents through the telling, discussion, and interpretation of mythological stories and fairy tales told to the beat of an African drum.

Since 2003, Alchemy has worked with over 2,000 male youth in its creative youth development programs. In 2012, they received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities.

“Myths speak to archetypal situations, universal dilemmas,” said Kwame Scruggs, Executive Director of Alchemy, Inc. And, embedded in myths are guides to behavior that he believes can help counter some of the destructive images of masculinity that have taken root in some aspects of urban culture.

“For the seven years that I have been in Alchemy, It has helped me grow from a boy to a man. The mythological stories we read and hear you can relate to everyday life. It helps you become a better decision maker to help you through hard times. It also connects you with other black males where I learn about their problems and we are able to help each other overcome obstacles. Alchemy is a great group of loyalty and brotherhood.” – Marlon, Alchemy participant

“I come, I listen, I share or say what I gotta say. I feel more open, because nothing leaves the circle. I’m something like a son, well, we all can say we are. But with no father figure in my life it seems like I had one when I come here and a lot of brothers so it taught me how to bond with people. So I come because it’s Alchemy. Love Kwame like a father.” – Dionte, Alchemy participant

Although personal development, rather than academic achievement, is the program’s chief goal, Alchemy’s techniques are also promoting academic success. Twenty-four of 28 members of its “first class” graduated from high school and went on to college. (And, of those 24 who enrolled in college, nine Alchemy alums have already graduated with their college degrees with 6 more alum on track to graduate by June 2018.)

In Finding the Gold Within, a feature-length documentary by Karina Epperlein, follow six young African American men, alumni of Alchemy’s program, as they enter college, determined to redefine society’s images and low expectations of them:

Youth Artists Turned Arts Advocates

Youth_Arts_Action_Initiative Through their Youth Arts Action Initiative, MASSCreative partners with 18 youth arts groups to provide advocacy training and opportunities for participants to effect change in their communities. Their youth partners represent a broad spectrum of disciplines – from music, theatre, dance, and visual art – and come from diverse backgrounds representing communities around Greater Boston and beyond.

Read the full blog post.