Gen-I Network

Youth Advisory Board

Youth Advisory Board 

One of the ways in which CNAY fosters continued youth engagement is through its Youth Advisory Board. The Youth Advisory Board is made up of the five most recently recognized Champions for Change, along with alumni from previous classes. As board members, Champions for Change act in an advisory capacity to guide and maximize the impact of our organization. CNAY solicits the input of these youth board members on a variety of issues, according to each person's area of expertise and interest.

Brayden White
Keith Martinez
Carroll (CJ) Francis Jr.
Mariah Gladstone
Christie Wildcat
Nancy Deere-Turney
Cierra Fields
Samuel Schimmel
 Faith Holyan
Sam Slater
Jazmyn Espinoza  Tatiana Ticknor
  Vanessa Goodthunder 

Brayden White  founded Helping Hands, a peer education and mentoring program focused on drug, alcohol and suicide prevention. Through Helping Hands, Brayden teaches his tribal community how to recognize and respond to signs of suicide. He's working with tribal leaders and community mental health professionals to form a youth group of Crisis Mediators, who will serve as first responders to peers in need of immediate support. Brayden is also a youth lacrosse coach and leads a Native American student group at his college.

Carroll (CJ) Francis Jr.  CJ’s goal is unity, strength, and healthy partnerships for all. After overcoming the effects of middle-school bullying, CJ poured his energy into fostering positive intergenerational relationships. He led youth in his community to create an event honoring elders with a focus on respect and learning from one another. CJ is an active mentor, engaging peers by teaching them about topics that range from healthy traditional foods to protecting natural resources, and more. CJ carefully crafts his educational and leadership experiences so that he can become Chief of his tribe.

Lauren McLester-DavisChristie Wildcat  founded the Wind River All-Action Crew, an inclusive youth group that transcends racial barriers and stereotypes through a lifelong-commitment to collaborative community service. Christie works with both Native and non-Native youth to serve Veterans, families in need, elders, and others in her community. Christie also took action to increase the representation of Native history and culture in her school, and is an accomplished artist.

Cierra Fields  is a two time melanoma survivor. She works with the Cherokee Nation Comprehensive Cancer Control Program to promote healthy lifestyles across the Cherokee Nation of OK, with the goal of reducing the risk of cancer. Cierra has served as a member of NCAI's Youth Cabinet, 2013 CNAY Champion for Change, a United Nations Youth Delegate, White House United State of Women Change-maker, the District 3 Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Councilor, and a We R Native National Youth Ambassador. She is the founder of Southeastern Woodland Tribal Youth Arts Guild as well as sits on the Board of Directors for the National Urban Indian Youth Alliance and is passionate about the preservation of cultural arts, healthy living, and ending violence and sexual assault against Native women.
                                     Currently Cierra is a freelance journalist for Indian Country Today. 

Faith Holyan  After losing a close friend to suicide, Faith started #codepurple, a social media based suicide prevention campaign, to connect peers going through difficult times with friends and loved ones. As a former World Champion in the Indian National Finals Rodeo circuit, Faith uses her title and recognition to advocate for youth suicide prevention and mental health awareness. She also hosts local community events for her peers that serve as safe spaces for discussing mental health related issues.   


Jazmyn Espinoza 
 is empowering her peers through creation of a mentoring initiative called, “The Warrior Circle Project.” She creates a safe space at the community center for youth to discuss challenges, suicide prevention, bullying, health and wellness, and to work together to offer advice and guidance to foster hope.

Keith Martinez PhotoKeith Martinez  is a recent Graduate of Villanova University who and currently works at the National Indian Gaming Commission as a Truman-Albright Fellow. His other works are with Lakota Children's Enrichment, Inc. (LCE) to fight against poverty and increase educational resources available on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Keith chairs LCE's Youth Advisory Board and is a Youth Ambassador with Youth Service America for the state of South Dakota. Keith works to raise awareness about LCE’s efforts and encourages his peers to obtain an education, mentor younger generations, and get involved in making a positive difference in their communities.

Mariah Gladstone  A graduate of Columbia University, Mariah is passionate about food sovereignty and health and wellness. Mariah created Indigikitchen, a web-video cooking show that teaches viewers to prepare traditional pre-contact foods for modern, healthy meals. Mariah leads culturally-responsive wellness classes like Powwow Zumba to encourage healthy lifestyles in her community, in addition to other classes focused on environmentalism.

Nancy Deere-Turney  started her own initiative focused on cultural preservation called the Youth Enrichment Camp (YEC). For the second year, Nancy will host the camp at a traditional roundhouse on her family’s land to talk to youth about the importance of culture, and the ways in which culture can be used to combat suicide and other issues Native youth are facing.  A former Junior Miss and Miss Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Nancy is actively involved in her tribe’s government, and plans to run for elected office for her district’s National Council.

Sarah Schilling PhotoSamuel Schimmel  Sam is an Alaska Native youth who spends part of his year as one of only two Native students in his urban Seattle school. The remainder of his year is spent with family in rural Alaskan villages. In Alaska, Sam’s passion for subsistence hunting and fishing keeps him connected to tradition and infuses his efforts to combat issues like suicide, drug abuse, and cultural disconnectedness. Having seen the effects of climate change in Alaska firsthand, Sam is also an avid environmentalist, working to raise awareness of its effects on tribal communities.     

Sarah Schilling PhotoSam Slater  has led the Navajo Nation Service Learning Trip, an effort his family plans and created with his high school in Washington, DC. In collaboration with his school, tribal government, and various agencies and individuals on the Navajo Reservation, Sam coordinates a two-week learning experience each year that teaches non-Native students about tribal history, innovation, sovereignty, government and culture through direct community service. Sam’s initiative enhances what he describes as the educational system’s limited curriculum on American Indian history and culture. With the trip as an educational tool, Sam seeks to enhance his peers’ understanding of Navajo culture through meaningful shared experiences. 

Sarah Schilling PhotoTatiana Ticknor  serves as a “Community Doer” for First Alaskans Institute. In this position, Tatiana engages and motivates her peers to get involved in community action, promotes culture and language preservation, and identifies opportunities to incorporate elder participation in community activities.

Sarah Schilling PhotoVanessa Goodthunder  has dedicated her life to learning and teaching her languages. Vanessa works with a nonprofit organization called Dakota Wicohan (Dakota Way of Life) as both a youth participant and later, a language instructor supporting Dakota language curriculum development. As a Generation Indigenous Youth Ambassador, Vanessa started the Daunkotapi group, which connects youth from the four Dakota communities in Minnesota to talk about issues facing Native youth today, discuss solutions, and provide peer support. 
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