Kayla Church, Pokagon Potawatomi, is active with youth in her UNITY Midwest Region (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin) as an Individual Member. Church shares how she is “a native foster youth that has finally found my loving home” in Allegan, Michigan. As a junior at Allegan High School, she plays soccer and is involved in the Gun Lake Tribe UNITY Youth Council.
Church explained how she “was first introduced to UNITY back in 2013. Throughout my journey in life many aspects of myself have changed. I have learned a lot going through the foster care system about myself and the struggle of those around me. I have always found a home in tribal communities and various events/conferences.” Church has been focused in her community service to “always help other youth that may be struggling and to be a voice for them.”
In 2019, the National UNITY Council Executive Committee’s created the “Home is Here” Initiative to encourage more Native youth in foster care to find their “forever home” among the UNITY Network. The UNITY youth believe that through giving back in community service that foster youth can regain that family through the UNITY network and communities that they serve. This helps build servant leadership as well as a strong Indigenous Identity grounded in their people. Church is a shining example of how leadership can bloom anywhere.
Created on May 19, 2016, the Gun Lake Tribe UNITY Council is a council composed of Tribal Youth and an Executive Board structured to focus on promoting personal development, citizenship and leadership among Native American youth. Gun Lake Tribe is committed to serving our youth and developing the next generation of strong, Tribal leaders. The Education Department houses a youth program that guides and supports the efforts of the Gun Lake Tribe UNITY Council, a United National Indian Tribal Youth affiliated youth council.
The Gun Lake Tribe UNITY Council elects members into officer positions, who are sworn in by the Tribal Council. The youth council is supported in learning leadership skills through annual youth-led strategic planning where the youth create a plan of activities for the year and the youth follow the same process that the Tribe’s departments in creating their annual plans. They are looking forward to working with their youth to develop their strategic plan this winter 2020.
In addition to assisting the youth in carrying out their strategic plan’s activities, this year the Youth Specialist will be building youths’ leadership skills by helping youth fundraise to send our youth leaders to the annual UNITY conference this July 2021, which is one of the largest gatherings of Tribal youth leaders in North America.