The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other federal agencies sponsored the fourth annual Native Youth Community Adaptation and Leadership Congress (NYCALC) over the summer in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The event brought together 85 Native American, Alaskan Native, and Pacific Islander students to gain knowledge and obtain skills in order to become the next generation of leaders and address environmental, cultural, and social issues in their communities. Two Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) students were selected to participate.
BLM Arizona recruited Native American college students from our state – including Grant Navakuku (Hopi) from Mesa Community College and Lance Tubinaghtewa (Hopi) from Glendale Community College – to attend the Congress as junior faculty members. Three more Arizona-region Native American youths were recruited to attend: Summer Kirk (Klamath Tribes of Southern Oregon), Lisa Robbins (Navajo), and Isaiah Nelson (Navajo).
The junior faculty members were vital to the success of NYCALC. They assisted the NYCALC faculty and mentored, guided, and inspired the high school students. They also led various activities, facilitated student discussions, participated in speaking panels, and assisted federal agencies at the career fair. Junior faculty members also attended career development, resume workshops, as well as opportunities to network with federal agencies and other professionals in the natural and cultural resource, land management, science, and engineering fields.
Navakuku, who is majoring in Educational Studies, reflected on his experience by saying, "This past week at the Native Youth Adaptation and Leadership Congress was very eye-opening and inspirational to say the least. From NYCALC I learned that it’s not a question of what can I do to benefit Indian country but rather a question of what can we all do to benefit Indian country as a collective group."
Throughout the week, students worked to answer NYCALC's question: "How can we support all generations to engage with the land while honoring and respecting indigenous knowledge, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), and the environment?" Using their experiences, passion, and knowledge, the students collaborated in a unique group setting called "Open Space Technology" to develop solutions in a final project they presented at the end of the week.
There was also fun to be had at NYCALC. In addition to their final project, students participated in a career fair, conservation service projects, a Potomac River kayak trip, and workshops sponsored by federal agencies and conservation organizations.
Tubinaghtewa, who is majoring in Archaeology and Astronomy, shared his favorite memory from the experience, "I believe the cultural gathering night was the greatest. Cultures from far off places like Alaska to the American Samoan islands were able to show their traditions and talent. I truly believed everyone enjoyed it."