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Healing Indigenous Lives with Pueblo of Pojoaque Youth

UNITY Peer Guide Santana Bartholomew shares upon her experiences working with her Native youth as a Pueblo of Pojoaque Youth Path to Wellness Coordinator: “Spending time with the youth in my community and witnessing the internal growth that takes place is the most rewarding part of my job. To see young tribal members develop leadership skills and a love of helping others in their community is not only a result of my dedication, but it is also a glimpse of who these youth truly are, the things they value, cherish, wish to protect, and most importantly, who they will become in the future. 

Everyone will experience trials and hardship in his or her life, and my ultimate goal when it comes to youth programming is to provide that love and support that every youth wants and deserves as well as the tools to navigate those difficult situations when they feel alone. However, I learn just as much from these youth as they do from me, and it surprises me every time”

Santana Bartholomew is a member of the Pueblo of Pojoaque in New Mexico. She is the tribal healing to wellness court coordinator at the Youth Path to Wellness (YPTW) under the Pueblo of Pojoaque Tribal Court. YPTW is working to heal youth who struggle with substance use disorder and frequent court-involvement. Santana is also an advisor and mentor for the new Pojoaque Youth Empowerment Summer Program as well as Tribal Youth Council. Her passion lies in working with youth—both in her community and across the country—to build and strengthen confidence, leadership skills, and cultural-identity in future leaders across Native America as a whole.

As a Peer Guide, Bartholomew holds an youth advisory role for the Healing Indigenous Lives Initiative, made possible 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. UNITY, with its trainers, youth guides, and mentors will offer regional trauma-informed youth leadership development trainings over the next two-years. These peer led asset mapping, youth advocacy and movement building workshops will collect Native youth feedback, from those who have been impacted by trauma and the Juvenile Justice system.

Read more on Peer Guide Bartholomew’s experiences thus far as a community Ambassador: 

This summer I have been organizing and implementing a Youth Summer Empowerment Program for youth tribal members (ages 14-18) who are employed by the Pueblo of Pojoaque during the summer. This program has been the result of a group effort between the Pojoaque Youth Path to Wellness and
other organizations both in and around my community such as the Pojoaque Tribal Administration and Human Resources departments, the Pojoaque Boys & Girls Club, the Pojoaque Tewa Language Program, the Pueblo of Nambe Tewa Roots Society, the Santa Mountain Center, and others. The program is meant to create a foundation for our Tribal Youth Council, and we plan to continue this kind of experiential education throughout the school year by incentivizing participation with planning to go on college campus visits, attending  UNITY conferences and making a difference in the community by helping others.

I conducted a pre/post test survey at the beginning and end of the summer to measure the success of this program. The data showed that–on average–youth who participated in this program improved in the areas of feeling more comfortable speaking about prominent issues in their community, knowing their Native lineage, budgeting and taxes, naloxone training, taking healthy risks, feeling important, valued, and having a lot to offer to their community as well as achieving their goals. As a youth mentor in my community, I love spending time with the teens, getting to know them, and preparing them for future Tribal Youth Council involvement.

As the Youth Path to Wellness Coordinator, I have been working hard to network with other agencies in my area that work with youth and families as well. As stated above, I have been working with various departments on the Pueblo of Pojoaque such as Tribal Administration, Tribal Human Resources, the Tewa Language Program, the Boys & Girls Club, the Early Childhood Center, the Opioid Prevention and Intervention Project, the Bison Program, and the Wellness Center.

Other organizations that I’ve been working with include the Pueblo of Nambe Tewa Roots Society, the Santa Fe Food Depot, the Santa Mountain Center, New Mexico River Adventures, the Espanola Soup Kitchen, and we plan to volunteer at the Santa Fe Homeless Shelter soon as well.

We are working with Pueblo of Pojoaque tribal youth student employees who live on or near the Pueblo of Pojoaque. Some of the activities took place in our Pojoaque facilities, others took place on the Pueblo of Nambe, and some in the city of Santa Fe, though essentially every group trip was held somewhere in Santa Fe County. The pilot project for the Youth Summer Empowerment Program started on July 4, 2019 and officially ended on August 2, 2019 just before many of the students returned to school, but we plan to continue meetings and activities throughout the school year as well.

For More Information, or to request a Peer Guide participate in a regional youth training, contact Program Manager LorenAshley Buford at and or Call UNITY National Headquarters: 480-718-9793