Created to help Native American youths achieve their goals, United National Indian Tribal Youth Inc. is working with about 30 students this weekend at a conference at Haskell Indian Junior College.
Shawn Braun, Haskell's student senate president, said he and other students at the Bureau of Indian Affairs school started "talking a few months ago" about forming a UNITY youth council. So Braun decided it would be worthwhile to bring the UNITY staff to campus for a training conference.
Braun said Thursday at the kickoff of the conference that he was looking forward to working with the trainers, who are headquartered in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Open to Native American high school juniors and seniors and college students, the regional conference will focus on leadership development, communication skills, organization skills, self-motivation, decision-making and problem-solving through the weekend.
BOB WALTERS, former mayor of Lawrence and a city commissioner, told the students, "You all are where it is.'' He said the future of the nation depends on its youth.
Bob Martin, president of Haskell, said he was pleased the conference was taking place in Lawrence. He commended Braun and the senate for organizing the conference, which ends Sunday.
Martin said leaders embody vision and can mobilize people to accomplish their goals. Leaders, he said, empower and support other people. During the conference, students will go through several team-building exercises and attend seminars on leadership.
On Thursday, participants were asked to introduce themselves and talk about why they wanted to attend the conference. Wayne Isaac, a Haskell student from New York, said he wanted to attend the conference because he had seen too many talented Native American youths not go to school. He said he would like to help promote education among American Indians.
LATER, UNITY consultant Jeri Brunoe took participants through a team building exercise in which the students were divided into four "families." They were asked to create a family name, motto and chant.
One group of students called themselves the White Eagle family and said their motto was "We are the Future."
Today, the students were scheduled to attend a seminar presented by a representative of the Eagle Talon Brotherhood and will go through a team building exercise simulating desert survival.
Braun said after the opening session that he continues to be interested in forming a UNITY youth council.
"I think that's a possibility. I really do," said Braun, a Tallequah, Okla., sophomore.
Harlan McKosato, UNITY training coordinator, said the group is trying to form a network of youth councils. Currently, there are about 50 UNITY youth councils across the nation, he said.
Thomas said "we know that we can't change the world,'' but he said UNITY can work with young people who can "go out and make significant changes."