Reaching New Distances: A Navajo Perspective on NextGen

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

by Kayla Begay

McKayla “Kayla” Begay (Kayenta, AZ) will be a senior at Monument Valley High School. In addition to playing track and field, basketball, and volleyball, Kayla enjoys spending time with her grandparents.

My name is McKayla Begay, but I prefer to be called “Kayla.” I have been a part of the NextGen group of La Casa Roja for about a year now, and I will be a senior this upcoming fall at Monument Valley High School in Kayenta, Arizona. I first heard about La Casa Roja through Casey Long and Rex Lee Jim. They both did a presentation at my previous school during my sophomore year at Shonto Preparatory Technology High School in Shonto, Arizona.

La Casa Roja has provided me with many opportunities throughout the past year or so. The first NextGen conference I attended was in Window Rock, where I met a lot of wonderful, outstanding, and encouraging people, and I knew these are the people I wanted to work with and get to know more. Throughout the whole year, I attended at least two more conferences out of state in Vermont and Massachusetts. It was an amazing opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and communicate with others and make friends. Being able to talk about our Navajo culture in front of people from other sites was also great way to share my own perspective and experience. What follows are several reflections on schooling, culture, and identity that I have honed while participating in NextGen and La Casa Roja.

I have realized that youth need to learn more about their native culture and to communicate with elders. The youth also need to understand the value of healthy food systems and the importance of planting vegetables, fruits, etc. In addition, not all youth understand their native language and it’s upsetting to our elders that all their teachings are going to waste. In order to strengthen the transmission of our Navajo culture and improve connections between the generations, there are several activities schools should embrace.

Community members who are known leaders, motivators, or simply wise people should visit schools and speak to students each month. It takes many partnerships to help with this time of gathering, but we all need encouragement along the way on our educational journeys. Students can also encourage each other by having what is known in some tribes as a talking circle. It is one way in which to share concerns and ask for advice. This could be done more frequently to help students relieve stress or to share something positive.

In the talking circle, it is helpful knowing there are people there to help you emotionally and physically no matter what you are going through. No one will judge you; they just want to help in anyway possible. The talking circle has helped me emotionally with all the difficult situations I have been through. Everyone helped in every possible way to keep me focused and on the road that I want to be. As I have opened up to peers, I have become more focused on sports, which keep me occupied when I have had some rough patches—track and field has always been my number one sport. Throwing the discus and shot put helped me emotionally; whenever I was upset I would just throw as hard as I could to reach a new distance.

Overall, I really appreciate this opportunity to reflect on my participation in NextGen and reflect on my school experience. NextGen has provided amazing experiences, especially for us youth out here on the Navajo Reservation.

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