UNITY Youth Intern Article – Submitted by Amiyah Begay
The recent Healing Indigenous Lives Initiative Youth Town Hall (HILI) hosted by UNITY peer guides, in partnership with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), focuses on Native youth who have been impacted by crime, trauma, or the juvenile justice systems allowing them to share how they have overcome their challenges in a 90-minute webinar. The mission of UNITY is to empower Native youth to improve their community by helping build a strong, unified, and self-reliant future for their community.
OJJDP’s mission is to provide national leadership, coordination, and resources to prevent and respond to juvenile delinquency and victimization. The missions of UNITY and OJJDP overlap therefore creating a strong partnership. Attending the Town Hall as a youth along with 20 other participants brings great pride to me because I also attended two caucuses hosted by the National UNITY Council. It was remarkable to hear youth from opposite coasts share the same problems in their communities.
Everyone was collectively giving their answers to the UNITY Peer Guides. The question that stuck out most to me was “What helps you feel safe in your community?”. I’ve never thought about this until I joined the webinar. The answers opened my mind. For example, one youth from South Dakota replied with “ Familiar Faces and [her] all-girls school”. A male participant replied with “ Isolation” which stuck with me because on the reservation, it could be in the middle of nowhere.
Another question that stuck out to me was “How can young people contribute to creating a safe environment in your community?” The responses were quite remarkable and eye-opening. For example, one participant responded with “youth councils,” which everyone overall agreed with pointing out they are or were on a youth council and how supportive they were. Another said “positive role models” who show that drinking or narcotics doesn’t bring you happiness but living clean is the best way as it can promote healthy living and wanting to improve yourself. Just listening to my peers helped open my eyes to what we can do as youth.
Overall I enjoyed my experience. I would recommend everyone to tune in to the next one, because the problems you see in your community can easily be recognizable in someone else’s. It helps connect us across UNITY’s network so we can create solutions collectively to keep our people safe and living in wellness.
This Initiative is supported by a cooperative agreement (2018-TY-FX-K002) between UNITY, Inc. and the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.