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25 Under 25 Ajah-Rain’s Healing and Advocacy Journey

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2022-223 UNITY 25 Under 25 Awardee
Interview with Ajah-Rain Yellowhair, 17, Navajo, NM


UNITY: What is your greatest personal achievement

Ajah-Rain: I had a really hard time trying to answer this question because I am mourning the person I used to be. I had thought that my greatest achievement was things my past self did. But, I am no longer the exact same person I used to be as this year has presented my life’s toughest hurdle yet. It was last year on February 22, I made the heartbreaking decision to leave my abusive household. It was like my heart had been ripped from between my lungs and placed outside of myself to endure the full extent of my trauma. After years of living in a world that forced me to be in fight or flight constantly, my body felt all 16 years of exhaustion at once. Healing from intergenerational trauma, the effects of alcoholism, and reservation blues has impacted my everyday life and I almost let myself give up. Since childhood, my goal has to been to become a leader who ends the cycle of abuse on the Navajo Reservation. I take comfort in knowing that the crappy things I experienced, allow me to understand the deep trauma of households across the reservation. So, that I can dedicate my life to healing my people and giving future generations the opportunity to live. My greatest personal achievement has been choosing to live, and choosing to embody the meaning of what being resilient is. 

UNITY: What is your most proud academic achievement and why is that most important to you?

Ajah-Rain: At the end of every school year,  before covid, of course, all of the teachers and residential staff would nominate students for awards. It was my freshman year and I received an invitation to attend the fancy dinner where the awards would be presented. I had worked my behind off to get on the dean’s list every semester, did sports, was in UNITY, and that night received special recognition. I won two very fancy optical crystal awards with the school logo and inscribed read “Newcomer of the year” and something along the lines of “Excellence in the arts” for English. This meant the world to me as I finished my first year at a college preparatory school. It meant that I could make it miles away from home in the most academically challenging school I’ve been to. It gave me assurance that I was going to be the first of my siblings to graduate with honors and go to college. I was overjoyed that my first year had proved that a chizhii navajo girl from the boonies could keep up with the white man’s curriculum. 

UNITY: Describe learning experiences outside the classroom that were important to you?

Ajah-Rain: I’ve dedicated myself to developing my leadership skills and to transforming into my highest self. Part of this was participating in numerous presentations, speeches, service projects, and enriching camps. However, the one that brought the most change in my life was Feb. 20,  2020. I had been furiously passionate about the epidemic and lack of awareness surrounding Missing and Murdered Indigenous women. It was arguably the first time I had experienced the power of using my voice to uplift the voices that need to be heard. I realized then that I would live my life living in service of my community. It was my calling to sacrifice the little things to work selflessly for underserved minorities. I truly, do try to be a genuinely good person who doesn’t work for my people as an obligation or to console my ego. But,  because, I want for my community to move towards the future. I do what I do because I believe that society needs more sincere humanity such as mine. After I raised my fist in the air as a symbol of solidarity, I was pledging to stand in solidarity with the people for the foreseeable future. 

UNITY: What are your educational/career goals?

Ajah-Rain: I worked hard to qualify for the New Mexico Davis scholarship to attend the University of Portland, all expenses paid for the full four years. I will be majoring in political science with hopefully, another major in education studies. I have many passions, and interests ranging from food sovereignty to policy-making in both the educational and political worlds. I hope to use this to bring real, lasting change to the Navajo Nation government including but not limited to foster services, police regulation, drug abuse, and chapter house responsibilities. In terms of education, I want to change the curriculum in history for Native American Studies, teacher pay, and success rates of education of students on the reservation. Moreover, I want to begin studying how to incorporate food sovereignty across the Navajo Nation by eliminating the destructive fast food chains that have given my loved ones and people of my community health problems. Also, I want to encourage communities to start to modernize to stimulate the economy and allow native kids to thrive at home without having to leave the reservation and not come back because of the lack of resources present at home. Overall, I want to be a steward of the people, land, and universe. 

UNITY: What personal attributes, skills, and talents do you possess that will help you achieve your education and personal goals

Ajah-Rain: I have been known to be a hyper-independent individual with an overachieving complex that often leads to burn out because I worked hard to prove my worth. This year, I have learned the importance of rest and self sustainment being imperative to achieving my goals. I feel that my awareness of mental terminology and knowledge in mental health will enable me to take care of myself. Furthermore, I am naturally communicative and make connections with others easily and the work I want to go in that will benefit me greatly. Not to mention that I have been identified as a strong speaker with strengths in leading, directing, and uplifting my peers to realize their talents and gifts. There are many things I could bring up but I feel these are the most important to mention. Lastly, I am a very empathic person who is open to learning and willing to fail forward. 


Ajah-Rain Yellowhair, Navajo, NM – Ajah intends to pursue a major in Political science and global affairs to become a policy development maker that assists in implementing humanitarian aid efforts. Her skills would be applied to help the people of the Navajo Nation regarding structure in governance and policies. She plans to pursue a future focus on educational studies to improve the educational institutions in the Navajo Nation. As a Navajo Preparatory alumni, she plans to attend the University of Portland, and connecting with the local WeRNative will allow me to work with native communities. Ajah’s life goal is to advance the current and next indigenous youth to brighter futures through holistic healing through service.

The UNITY 25 Under 25 award is a national youth leadership recognition program that honors Native American and Alaskan Native youth leaders who exemplify UNITY’s core mission and exude living a balanced life, developing their spiritual, mental, physical, and social well-being. The biennial program, launched in 2014, recognizes and celebrates the achievements of 25 outstanding Native youth leaders under 25 in Indian country. “Our Native youth have a passion for building and bettering their communities. UNITY’s 25 Under 25 program recognizes their achievements and encourages these young people to stay involved and further develop their leadership skills,” said Mary Kim Titla, UNITY executive director.