Week-long leadership program brings Tribal students together from across the state

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Native American students from across Tribal Nations and the state came together for a week-long leadership academy.

The North Dakota Indian Youth Leadership Academy has one goal — and that is to foster leadership abilities in youth.

But while there is one goal, each kid has their reason for coming to the week-long experience.

“Learn more about being a leader and being able to speak up more and social skills,” shared Jasica Waln, from Oglala Lakota Tribal Nation.

“I do a lot of leadership activity back in my community. At school, I was the president doing my own suicide prevention team down there. And I just like to socialize. I’m a big socialize person,” shared Brianna Little Wind, from Spirit Lake.

“You get to meet new people and like you could have a new role model with the mentors. Some of them are pretty good,” shared Haiden Person, from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

For some of them, this isn’t their first time at the academy and they say each time is different from the last.

“It’s just a great way to like open up. Come out of your shell and just meet new people. And have fun,” said Madisan Little Wind, from Spirit Lake.

“I got over my like little fear of talking in front of people. And it’s just fun to learn about leadership so I can make everything a better place,” explained Rita Wise Spirit, from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Through a partnership with Bismarck State College, Native Inc. Development Center has been using dorms and facilities to host this year’s academy.

With an array of activities, they want the youth to succeed beyond their communities.

“Get a wide range of common real-world, go into these applications for school, for college, for a career. And just to be able to build themselves something from that,” said Jen Mellette, the Community & Youth Coordinator.

All while bringing the various cultures from different tribal nations together in one spot..

“So being able to give them some unity, giving them some spiritual oneness, give them a chance to come back to each other touch hands, touch base. Say, ‘Hey relative, I come from Spirit Lake. Relative, I come from MHA. Relative, I come from Standing Rock. I’m here from you,'” shared Mellette.

They asked the students attending the academy what they would like to see more of in future years. One suggestion is to set daily goals for themselves.

Last year’s academy was canceled due to the pandemic, so the kids were super excited to return.

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