So Much to Fight For, So Much to Change

Jun 21st, 2019 | By | Category: NextGen La Casa Roja, Summer 2019

by Nizhoni-bah Martin

Nizhoni-bah Martin will be a sophomore Tohatchi High School in Tohatchi, NM. She was named her school’s Native American Princess for 2018-2019, and she hopes to continue being an indigenous youth leader and advocate.

Because you’re young, you’re torn between a world of hate and a world of dreams. So much to lose, so much to gain. So much to fight for, so much to change.” -“Because You’re Young”

The continuation of NextGen, a youth network welcoming diversity and focused on young minds, should occur because it has positively impacted communities and young lives from a diverse array of places.

NextGen has made a big impact on many communities by engaging young people in new ways. For example, my sisters and I have been able to travel to many places to learn about new things, to make new friendships, and to network with other youth. Through youth engagement, communities can do a better job of creating the services, opportunities, and supports that young people need to develop in healthy ways. NextGen has created a gathering place for community youth where they can get their ideas out to adults who care, and the objective is to support young people’s independence and sense of responsibility and enable them to cope with life independently. From a political point of view, youth engagement is important because young people deserve the right to represent their own interests. NextGen can also potentially prepare youth for a lifetime of leadership.

In addition, NextGen has impacted my life in a positive way by increasing my self-esteem, skills, and my knowledge. I have really learned to be a more social person by talking to more people I have never met before and really getting to get my ideas and thoughts out to peers and adults. Our network has enhanced my development as it provides me with opportunities to generate real community change. I’ve also learned self-discipline and time management.  

One specific example of positive impact NextGen engagement has had on me occurred during the Holistic Healing Writing Conference. I learned a lot of new techniques to use in my writing, and I learned that I wasn’t the only person thinking critically about pop culture. The session that had the biggest impact on me was one about what lyrics in songs really mean, presented by the NextGen youth team from Atlanta. I thought I had been one of the only youth that had been thinking about whether lyrics might have a positive or negative impact on people. For example, many current rappers and hip hop artists have lyrics that talk about women in a bad way.

The work that NextGen has been doing can impact the future by encouraging youth activism and engagement, bringing about important social changes that are sometimes ignored. Youth opinions matter and should be heard. On the Navajo Nation, youth have done many things to engage people who don’t have opportunities like we do as part of NextGen. For example, my youth group, La Casa Roja, started a summer youth conference, where peers and adults get to experience new things such as dancing, cultural activities, and speaking/writing activities. If we start now, future youth can learn and make the future better.

Today, being not only a global citizen, but also a student, I realize that I have a moral responsibility towards the environment and communities. It is the youth of today that are going to bear the consequences of the actions of today. It is our duty to ensure that our actions only do well to the environment and communities and do not cause any more harm than what is already done. As the young generation, our voice matters. Our words are starting to matter.

Here’s a reflection I wrote during the conference:
I value and cherish my family. I am very grateful and lucky to have a family because not every person has one. I have thought about this question before, and really my answer has been the same. Family is something that is very important to me. Most importantly, I am going to spend as much time with them as possible. I want to keep laughing with them. The laughing where your abs start to hurt and you start to cry of joy. I want to keep crying with them. The cry where you can feel the emotions strongly. But beyond that I am going to love them always. The meaning of family to me is Fearless, Amazing, Memorable, Inspiring, Loving, Youthful people. F-A-M-I-L-Y. I wrote this because a family is the main support system of a person, and for a youth leader a family is your back bone. They’ll help you through tough times and they’ll be there for the joyful heartening times.

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