What We Do
As a policy program of the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC, the Center for Native American Youth is a nonpartisan forum for analysis, consensus building, and problem solving. In this capacity, we convene stakeholders who share our vision for all Native American youth to lead full and healthy lives, to have equitable education opportunities, and to inspire future generations. Our mission is to improve the health, safety, and overall well-being of Native American youth through communication, policy development, and advocacy.
We focus our work in four key areas:
YOUTH INSPIRATION. We look for ways to inspire Native youth. Our cornerstone program is the Champions for Change initiative, which is aimed at recognizing and encouraging Native American youth (ages 14 to 24) working in their tribal or urban Indian communities to make a positive impact. Champions are individuals who initiate programs, events, or other efforts to improve the lives of fellow Native youth and Indian Country. By enabling them to tell their stories on the national level, they provide their peers with positive examples of embracing life and pursing opportunities. Champions for Change youth leaders are exposed to leadership development opportunities, participate in CNAY’s Youth Advisory Board, and become engaged in other significant national events, like the White House Tribal Nations’ Conference, to share their message of positive change and hope. In addition to this initiative, we share youth-focused resources through social media and other communication channels, we host Native American youth during their Washington, DC field trips, and we offer Native American internship opportunities in our office at the Aspen Institute.
ADVOCACY. We advocate for Native youth by elevating their voices about the issues that affect them. We work to raise the awareness of policy-makers, funders, the media, and the general public. We publish powerful op-ed pieces in national media outlets like the New York Times and USA Today, and are creating a national dialogue about expanding critical and necessary programming to reach Native American youth.
POLICY CHANGE. We seek to effect policy change on the federal, state, and tribal level. We host policy and resource roundtable events with participants from the White House, federal agencies, tribal organizations, and Native youth. We collaborate with other national Native organizations to prioritize needs and develop coordinated policy positions.
RESOURCE PLATFORM. We connect people and organizations with one another, and provide practical information and resources aimed at increasing access to opportunity for Native youth. We convene gatherings with youth and tribal leaders in communities throughout Indian Country, and maintain an online resource center for Native youth, tribal communities, and the general public. We compiled and continue to distribute a matrix of federal programs providing direct services to Native youth.