Gen-I Network


Gen-I Stories of Inspiration

On this page, you will find inspirational stories submitted by Native American youth from across Indian Country. In support of Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) CNAY is sharing stories from Native youth about motivation, overcoming barriers, reaching goals, and Native Pride. CNAY encourages youth to be creative in their storytelling – these submissions will empower and support young Natives everywhere!

Zach Garcia - Pianist, Vocalist, and Composer 

As Zach Garcia explains it, he’s always wanted to be a musician – well, except for those few brief years in middle school when he had his sights set on being an NBA player.

The 2012 Ada High School graduate certainly possesses the musical gene. Both of his parents are musicians, and his father, W.T. Skye Garcia, is also a music instructor at East Central University. 

Zach began his piano studies at the age of 4 and moved on to composing his own works at the age of 8. He is a member of the 2012 Oklahoma All District and All State Mixed Chorus and recently became the only solo artist in the history of Oklahoma to receive a sixth gold cup in the National Federation of Music Clubs for 14 consecutive superior ratings in piano performance.

He attributes his strong work ethic to his Chickasaw heritage and says that he’s proud of this ideal, one he believes to be common in the Chickasaw Nation. 

“My grandfather was Chickasaw and he exhibited the same determination, the same work ethic that I want in my life and my career,” Zach said, “as did my mom and her brothers – they’re all extremely hard workers.”

Not only is Zach an award-winning musician, he’s also an honor student, has been a part of the Chickasaw Nation’s Chikasha Apihchi Ikbia youth leadership program, was a starting athlete on the varsity basketball and cross country teams and is a member of the Christian rock band Bloodline. Zach plans to attend East Central University and major in vocal music education with a minor in Spanish. Watch Zach's video below. 



  • Represented the Chickasaw Nation at the “Nation Building for Native Youth” summer leadership institute in Scottsdale, Arizona in the summer of 2011
Graham Nelson Beyale - Northern Dine Youth Committee Leader

Graham Nelson Beyale is Dine (Navajo) from Shiprock, NM and is majoring in Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico (UNM). Graham wrote to the Center to share his inspiring story of getting young Native Americans involved in tribal community projects across New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.  

At a young age, Graham recognized the challenges facing his community - poverty, substance abuse, historical trauma, domestic violence, health problems, environmental issues and young suicide - and decided that he could be the one to start addressing these challenges. During Graham’s first year at UNM he was inspired by the many Native American youth like himself who wanted to make a difference in their home communities and reservations. Graham decided to return home and put to use his ideas, teachings and energy to better his community.               

Graham’s first community project was the development of beach volleyball courts at Shiprock’s Nizhoni Park on the bank of the San Juan River. Over 60 Native youth from across the community came together to help Graham make this dream a reality.  This community project was just the beginning of the Native youth movement in Shiprock. Graham discovered that youth wanted to make a difference, get involved in community service, and aspired to make a positive change. 

From this volleyball court project, the Northern Dine Youth Committee (NDYC) was created and three years later the committee has completed 23 service projects, 37 community events, 22 fundraisers and participated in numerous youth meetings. The NDYC currently involves over 70 members representing 16 tribal communities in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. The Northern Dine Youth Committee strives to empower their peers to be young leaders, guided by generational teachings to serve and inspire pride in their Native communities. NDYC has been recognized by the New Mexico Governor, Navajo Nation Vice President, and local community leaders.

Beyale shares the message that “we may be the products of a hurt people in history but we are the seeds of restoration for today and many years to come. We can be the generation to defeat those hardships.”

To learn more about Graham and NDYC, visit the Facebook page, Northern Dine Youth Committee.

Teressa Baldwin - Advocate for Suicide Prevention with Hope4Alaska

Teressa "Tessa" Baldwin is an Alaska Native from Kotzebue, Alaska and currently a senior at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, Alaska. Tessa is an inspirational young woman who has committed herself to advocating for suicide prevention in Alaska and across the country.

By age sixteen, Tessa had lost several loved ones to suicide and in her own words, hit a low point in her life. Inspired by mentors and suicide prevention activists like Carol Waters and Barbara Franks, Tessa was able to overcome her sadness and begin a journey to becoming a champion for suicide prevention. Tessa told herself, "I want to be part of the solution and not the problem with Alaska's suicide rates," and she wrote down her first goal, to save one hundred people from committing suicide.

Driven by the tragic loss of close loved ones to suicide and her inspiration to make a difference, Tessa founded Hope4Alaska, a campaign dedicated to raising awareness and increasing suicide prevention across the state. As a high school student, Tessa has built the non-profit Hope4Alaska, applying for grants and securing funds to provide suicide prevention trainings and workshops in schools across the state. She travels to these communities and talks to youth about suicide and why it is important to prevent these tragedies and take care of each other.

In the fall of 2011, Tessa was appointed by Governor Sean Parnell to serve on the Alaska Suicide Prevention Council and is currently a youth ambassador with the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium on suicide prevention. In December 2011, Tessa was invited to the White House to be honored as a "Champion for Change" and had the opportunity to meet President Obama. She has also served as the chair of the Alaska Association of Student Government's Suicide Prevention Committee and was awarded Student Leader of the Year by the Association in 2011.

Tessa continues to set goals for herself and encourages her peers to speak up and join her in the fight against suicide.

"Instead of waiting for this to stop itself," Tessa says, "Let's be the generation to teach the rest of the generations that suicide is not the answer."

To learn more about Tessa and Hope4Alaska, visit the Facebook page, Hope4Alaska.
Dirk’s 262 Mile Run to Support Native Youth

Dirk Whitebreast, a 31-year-old member of Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, is taking on the challenge of running 10 marathons (listed below) in 30 days in an effort to raise awareness of the tragic level of youth suicide in Indian Country and other challenges faced by Native youth. All the money raised for Dirk’s 262 Mile Run will be donated to support the Center for Native American Youth.

On March 28, 2003, Dirk suffered the tragic loss of his 18 year old sister, Darcy Jo Keahna, to suicide. At that moment, in an effort to cope with the loss of his sibling, Dirk decided to take control of his life and become a healthier, stronger leader for his family, tribe and the entire community. Dirk’s running career began in the fall of 2003 and it didn’t take long for running to become his passion.

Running is important to the culture of many Indian tribes across the United States. It is a challenge to one’s body, mind, and spirit. Dirk ran his first marathon in April of 2006 and after that race he was hooked. To date, Dirk has run 29 marathons in 17 states and is in his 8th year of alcohol sobriety.

Dirk hopes to share his experience of running marathons with Native youth, tribal leaders, and other organizations. Through his running, Dirk aims to first and foremost honor his sister, promote healthy living in Indian Country, and set an example of commitment, motivation, hard work and leadership for all Native American youth. Dirk’s 262 mile challenge is a symbol of strength and endurance for Indian Country, and will create hope for Native youth while playing a part in preventing and raising awareness of the tragedy of youth suicide.

Be a part of Dirk’s 262 mile run and show your support for the Center for Native American Youth by donating today.

Dirk's 10 Marathons

The North Face Endurance Challenge -
Madison, WI
September 17th, 2011
*Run is actually in Eagle, WI

Community First Fox Cities Marathon -
Appleton, WI
September 18th, 2011

American Birkebeiner Trail Run -
Hayward, WI
September 24th, 2011

The Quad Cities Marathon - Moline, IL
September 25th, 2011

Freedom's Run Marathon - Shepherdstown, WV
October 1st, 2011

Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon - Milwaukee, WI
October 2nd, 2011

Prairie State Marathon - Libertyville, IL
October 8th, 2011

Bank of America Chicago Marathon - Chicago, IL
October 9th, 2011

Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon -
Kansas City, MO
October 15th, 2011

IMT Des Moines Marathon - Des Moines, IA
October 16th, 2011

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