It wasn’t your typical summer break for several Central Consolidated School District students who were spread across the country participating in Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) projects and the Leadership Summit for Native Youth in Agriculture Summit at the University of Arkansas.
The YCC is a summer youth employment program that engages young people in meaningful work experiences at national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries while developing an ethic of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility. Students develop collaboration and leadership skills, explore the outdoors and learn about careers in cultural and natural resource management.
This year, 14 CCSD students participated in three sessions of the YCC – one in Eagle River, Wisconsin and two sessions in Orleans, California. Preston Bitsilly, Tyrese Ben and Triston Jones, all of Shiprock High School, and Arionnon Begay and Cody Norberto of Kirtland Central High School all participated in California. Breanna Alexander of KCHS, Jodie Benally of SHS and Rihana Long and Corminda Henry of Newcomb High School participated in Wisconsin. Long and Henry both served as crew leaders during their time with the YCC.
The CCSD students completed projects in trail construction, campsite restoration and other repair projects as well as projects in the preservation of historic buildings, streams and trails.
Five students from CCSD also participated in the 4th Annual Leadership Summit for Native Youth in Food and Agriculture at the University of Arkansas in Fayetville, Arkansas. The event was sponsored by the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law.
Haskelette Billy from KCHS, and Serena Pete, Thomas Kellwood, Octavia Nez and Angel Hoskie from Shiprock High all attended the summit.
Students heard from guest speakers on the topics of American Indian Agriculture, business planning, ethnobotany and seed preservation, soil conservation, legal issues in Indian Country and the importance of traditional foods.
As part of the summit students will visit the unique “This Is Hunger” exhibit near Fayetteville’s historic downtown square. The exhibit is being installed as part of a collaboration with the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative and the exhibit will help students understand how the food insecurity issues they confront in Native communities fit into the greater struggle for national and international food security. Other highlights of the summit included a tour of the animal and food sciences labs, horticulture programs and freight farm on the U of A campus, a tour of Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma’s greenhouses, apiary, cattle and bison production and facility and dog training operation, interactive agricultural demonstrations at Dagg’s Farm with Intertribal Agriculture Council specialist Steven Bond and training from the Chickasaw Nation’s nutrition experts.
The students from both the YCC projects and the Leadership Summit were recognized at the CCSD July Board Meeting in Shiprock. They were praised for their efforts over the summer and acknowledged as leaders among their peers.