Stories Across the Agency: Sharing Leadership & Culture with the NAEP
3rd Annual Native American Youth Leadership Academy
Nearly 30 PSESD Native American Education Programstudents attended the 3rd annual Native American Youth Leadership Academy at Miracle Ranch (near Purdy, WA), for the opportunity to learn leadership skills through a cultural lens and connect with other youth who share their same Native cultural identity.
Students from PSESD’s Native American program from Franklin Pierce, Peninsula, Sumner, and University Place joined another 10 Native youth (grades 8-12) from various school districts in the area. The event provides one of the few school events where Native students can be the majority rather than the oft-invisible minority reflected in their respective schools.
The great thing about events like this is it allows students to be Native on their own terms and see that there are lots of Native youth just like them. (Jason Lafontaine)
“The great thing about events like this is it allows students to be Native on their own terms and see that there are lots of Native youth just like them,” said PSESD NAEP Manager Jason Lafontaine. “Students who often have to leave their Native culture at the door when they walk into school or who are often one of just a small number of Native kids in their school can see that they are not alone.” Mr. LaFontaine also pointed out that because of the urban nature of the Seattle-Tacoma area, there are so many more tribes represented in our schools other than just the local NW Coast tribes. “Students in our schools have tribal heritage that come from all over the country – Plains tribes, southwest tribes, plateau tribes, and Alaska Natives. For students and families to come see that our Indian Education programs are here for all of them is huge,” he said.
The two-day event included sessions led by Native elders, educators, and a college student on different ways leadership looks and how these students are going to be the next generation to keep the culture strong. Students took part in a large round dance, a nature walk, horseback riding, and play the traditional game of Sla Hal (also known as the bone or stick game). In the evening there was a student talent showcase. This year we had singers, piano players, and a card trick. It was at this showcase that had two huge examples of why the event is put on.
One student who felt uncomfortable being in a large crowd and stayed on the edge of the group most of Day 1 gained the courage to go on stage and sing a 5-minute song in front of the entire retreat. One of the students on the retreat planning committee came up to her after the talent show and gifted her a lei that he just received himself to honor her for putting herself out there and showing courage.
Students who often have to leave their Native culture at the door when they walk into school or who are often one of just a small number of Native kids in their school can see that they are not alone. (Jason Lafontaine)
The PSESD NAEP would like to thank our partner school districts (Franklin Pierce, Peninsula, Sumner, and University Place) for working with us to provide this unique opportunity for our Native youth. We would also like to thanks the Puyallup Tribe for grant funds that helped our program pay for registration and transportation. This event is put on by the Western Washington Native American Education Consortium. The WWNAEC is made up of several school district Native American education programs in the region.
“Stories Across the Agency”is a new monthly column dedicated to the stories of the people who make up Puget Sound ESD. With over 100 programs across King County, Pierce County, and Bainbridge Island, our goal is to share the experiences of staff throughout the agency to increase awareness around the collective impact of our work. If you or someone you know is interested in sharing stories from your work, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.