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UNITY spotlight: Gila River youth leader Adam Cardona Jr.

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Adam Cardona Jr., Gila River Indian Community

 UNITY spoke with Adam’s Youth Council Advisor Corrina Pino to learn more about his leadership development. Pino explains how Adam is active within the Phoenix Union High School – Native American Education Program as an exemplary student.  Adam explains that his “most important academic achievement is maintaining a solid GPA in high school while also participating in multiple school clubs. The reason why I was so proud of myself was that I had felt I was being a role model for my siblings. I believed that doing good in school and pushing myself to participate in clubs was a way to show my siblings to stay busy, build their character, and stay out of trouble.” 

“While in high school he was very diligence in pursuing more knowledge in computers and the roles of “great leaders”. Adam is a team player who is well-organized.  He was able to bring recognition to the Cesar Chavez Native American Youth Council by making commitments and striving to complete what he starts. Examples, food drives for holidays, community clean up, setting up tutoring programs, M.C. youth conferences, and being a speaker at youth conferences. Adam had great abilities to prioritize and uses his skills in time management to be successful in what he sets out to do. On the fun side, he understands there is a time to have fun.  So he ran and is a past Mr. UNITY 2019″ said Pino. 

Adam excels outside of the classroom as well. He shared with UNITY how “a major part of learning outside the classroom came from being a part of these youth councils.  With the Cesar Chavez High School Native American Youth Council, I gained the opportunity to attend a panel and learn leadership skills.  I was able to be part of fundraising events and hold cultural events for youth.  I had to do public speaking and gain confidence with being in front of people” said Adam.  “While a part of the Gila River Indian Community youth Council, I was able to observe court hearings and learn about laws that adhere to our community,  and what kind of pros and cons they come with.  Along with hosting cultural events, health events, and even a youth conference giving the youth guidance on where they can turn to if they want to go on to learn more.” This expands to his community service as well. Adam shared that  “even volunteering for community clean-ups and donating to families.  I had to attend community meetings and report to the public and back to the youth council to keep each other up to date.  These learning experiences are significant because I would have not gotten to learn these skills if I did not take the initiative to learn more.  I believe these skills will help me in the future and allow me to work more efficiently personally and with my future career.”

“His ability to overcome a troubled time when he lost a family member to violence. It motivated him to get support from trusted school staff.  The event allowed him to want a better life and be a positive role model for others.  He moved forward with his education and provided encouragement for other Native students by letting them know how important their education and life is. Because of his resiliency, he was able to put together a suicide seminar and promote suicide prevention by putting a run together” said Pino. 

What is next for Adam

Adam shared his future “educational goals are a major part of my life right now.  Currently, I am attending school to get a Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering.  My goal is to get a Doctorate in Software Engineering.  On the other hand, my career goal is to get an internship as a means to gain experience and move on to a major company like Intel, Microsoft, or Cisco.  My plan for the next five years first this year, is to get done with the classes I’m taking this semester, sign up for classes next semester, and close this year with a wrapping up calc one and my java programming classes.  Year two is to start term one classes hopefully containing a new programming language as a way to make my skill more marketable.  See if I can get an internship going with one language which is Java.  Term two will also have classes however I may be able to get an internship after having finished part one of the second language.  Close turn two with the second language wrapped up.  During year three I will still have classes and will have enough skills to have a chance to get my foot in the door for internships making year three crucial for getting an internship either this term or term two.  Term two of year three will mostly have classes surrounding math and computer systems along with programming hopefully close this year with an internship and with the beginning of a third programming language. The fourth year’s first term will have me participating in an internship and working to gain experience.  This will be along with the few classes that I have left.  Term two will still have classes however I believe I will be graduating but that could be an overestimate in time. Year five if I have graduated will result in me moving full time in my internship or taking that time to search the market for a more competitive company.

Pino shares that in ten years she envisions that “Adam will have completed his education in the field of computer programming and software development.  Because of his desire to teach others what he knows he will have the skills to be a teacher and provide leadership for the youth, he comes in contact with. Plus during high school he became a certified programmer” said Pino.  

Adams’s greatest personal achievement

One of my personal achievements that I am proud of was during my time as an at-large representative for the Gila River Indian Community Youth Council.  Two District Six representatives and I hosted a basketball tournament for the community. This event served as a major learning experience for me and the reward I felt for successfully hosting a tournament with participants and an audience was tremendous. The first major lesson was scheduling.  When planning where to have your tournament you first have to know where you want to host it, for us we decided at our local Boys and Girls Club.  We felt that because of the indoor court, our participants and audience would feel more comfortable. So we had to put in a reservation for a certain weekend to use the courts.  Along with reserving the kitchen because we provided refreshments and snacks for guests who attended.  We also had to schedule an EMT for the event in case any of the participants were injured.  Even scheduling with designers and sponsors for the prizes that were for the participants and budgeting for the event.  Next, we had to create waivers and get participants for the tournament, so this included advertising and reaching out to any local teams.  We also had to reach out to volunteer referees for the games.  Lastly, was budgeting and reaching out to local companies t see if we could receive a sponsorship for the event to gain funding.  A major part was to spread out the provided budget for our basic needs like food and drink and use the funding for any other features we wanted, which was to give custom shirts as prizes for the members of the teams that placed first, second, or third.  This experience was probably one of the best I’ve had because it was a real-world experience and it had many moving parts with different stages that had to be done in a certain timeframe.  In the end, were able to meet our deadline and host an event that went smoothly.”

“Adam serves his community with of his leadership skills, intelligence, resourcefulness, outspokenness, and his commitment to completing projects. Plus, he is very capable of inspiring people because of his compassion.  He has a strong belief Native youth can achieve their dreams and goals by not giving up on themselves and most important their education” explains Pino. 

Uncles are role models too

“I would have to say my uncle Mike has had a major impact on my life. A major way that my uncle has played a part was the little things telling me how it was when he was in school and how much it meant to him to be in school and how serious it is to take it.  During his high school year, he would read books for fun and try them later when had a computer.  Later after graduating, she would on to college for programming.  In the middle of his educational career, he moved on to working with a business for several years creating many programs and saving millions for his company.  During my high school years, he would support me with math class and even give pointers on shortcuts that came in handy.  Later as I went into college my uncle along with other family members became a hardcore supporter wanting me to follow through and finish.  He would give me pointers on languages to study, what type of steps I should use when approaching a problem, and even gave me an idea of how I should handle things in the work environment.  Even to this day as I try to get ideas on what kind of project I should use to present to a future employer or what kind of skill I should have or may have to sharpen, he is there to give notes.  Overall, my uncle has tried his best to lead and guide me in the right direction so that I can become successful and my goal.”

UNITY wishes Adam the best in his future endeavors. Nominate an outstanding student to be featured on our website by emailing