BLACKFOOT — A program providing tribal youth with academic support services and leadership development opportunities has doubled in size this year.
The NDN Scholars Program—short for Navigating and Developing Native Scholars—began last year as a pilot program aimed toward helping tribal youth reach their academic goals. This year, the program—which operates as part of Partners for Prosperity—received a Learn & Serve grant that allowed for the expansion of the program to focus on service learning. The grant also allows for a leadership conference to be held for all tribal youth in the area.
The new class of 20 students—which consists of students from American Falls, Pocatello, Fort Hall and Blackfoot—was selected by a panel of judges. Eligible students must be a junior or senior in high school, have a 2.0 GPA or higher and show proof of enrollment in a federally recognized tribe. They must also show a desire to succeed and to pursue higher education.
The goal, program manager Randy’l Teton said, is to provide the students with the skills they need to become a future leader in their community. The students are encouraged to go on to college, returning after graduation to serve and work on their reservation.
“We’re creating a new cycle of success,” Teton said.
The NDN Scholars Program includes leadership training and a mentorship program that pairs students with working professionals to provide motivation and encouragement.
In March, the first-ever Rez Nation Youth Leadership Conference will be at Idaho State University. The conference will be March 4-5 and is open to all 9-12 grade tribal youth. The focus of the conference will be to learn about tribal government and to learn how to handle real-life issues that face a tribal council.
“I think all of the youth are intelligent and have the desire to go on,” Teton said. “I feel lucky to be there to help them achieve their goals.”
She said there is always a need for mentors and they are also seeking individuals to serve as committee members. Those interested can find more information at www.p4peid.org/NDN  or by calling Teton at 782-3894.
The 2011 class of NDN Scholars are pictured from left to right (top row) Cerissa Honena (BHS), Timothy Haskett (AFHS), Winston Bearing (SBHS), Lonnie Jordan (BHS), Dustin Racehorse (BHS), Traelee Perdash (BHS), Jacob Atkins (PHS), JaLynn George (BHS), Tyrell Lyons (BHS), Makalia Eagle (BHS), Alex Burnett (BHS) and seated are Vannesa Santos (HHS), Toni Rodriguez (BHS), Tess Hugues (HHS), Paige Marshall (BHS) and Austin Kniffin (CHS). Not pictured are Sheldon Moss (BHS), Yvonne Broncho (SBHS), Leela Sorrell (AFHS) and April Marshall (BHS).