Not just another blog--but a blog by Native youth about Native youth. You'll learn what it's like to grow up between two cultures. #nativeamerican #nativeyouth #student #ownvoices

“Tell me why you think Native youth don’t succeed.”

“What do you mean?” a student asked.

“Well, only 17% of Native Americans finish college. The unemployment rate on the Rez is about 43%. Why? Just list things that you think prevent Native youth from finding success.” They looked at each other and one by one started offering reasons.

Not just another blog--but a blog by Native youth about Native youth. You'll learn what it's like to grow up between two cultures. #nativeamerican #nativeyouth #student #ownvoices

“Drugs.”

“Alcohol.”

“The schools on the Rez suck.”

“Poverty.”

I wrote each answer on the whiteboard, using smaller and smaller handwriting to make all of the reasons fit as their lists rolled on and on.

“Nobody listens.”

“Yeah. We don’t have a voice.”

The bell rang, releasing all of us from the spell of discouragement and defeat. The students rushed out to their next class, and I stumbled to my computer to prepare for my math students.

In between assigning objectives, printing working sheets, and explaining the rudiments of adding fractions with unlike denominators, an idea took shape. Within hours, I had purchased a domain name. I had a dream.

And it remained just a dream for another nine months. When I went through the same exercise with a new group of students, the conversation ended the same way. “No one listens. We don’t have a voice.”

I knew the time had come. No more hesitating, second-guessing myself, and wondering if this idea would succeed or fail.

Native Youth Write from the Heart

The students spent over a month crafting their persuasive essays. Did I mention that although I teach English, I don’t find teaching writing skills pleasant? I love it when kids catch on, but the process is arduous.

Their essays blew me away. Thoughtful. Researched. Passionate. Lest anyone think that I told them what to write, let me assure you: They all picked their own topics. My instructions? Write a persuasive essay that convinces your audience to think differently about a topic. That’s it.

Introducing Voices of Native Youth. A blog by Native Youth about Native Youth for everyone. Click To Tweet

As we’ve watched the comments come in and the stats and social shares, I’ve breathed a silent prayer of thanks. They look a little incredulous. For the first time, they feel like someone out there is listening.

If you have a chance, pop on over and read what they have to say. You’ll find it’s not just another blog. It holds the voices of Native youth.

This post is part of the Five-Minute Friday quick write hosted by Kate Moutang. Join us each Thursday night on Twitter (#FMFParty) for fun and fellowship, then grab a pen and start writing when the prompt goes live!

16 Comments

  1. I’m so glad you followed your gut and started the blog. I, too, have been blown away by their work. I haven’t read all of them yet, but I hope to get over to finish reading and commenting. They are amazing kids! Blessings to you, Anita! I’m your neighbor this week at Five Minute Friday.

  2. Your students have done an outstanding job! I was actually bragging about them to my husband this evening! You are a wonderful example of a creative, caring teacher! I know you are proud of your students but I hope you are proud of yourself too! Cindy

  3. They do have a voice! Their essays/blog posts have been so well thought out. What a great teacher you are too….becaus you heard them and did something about it! All of you are a gift…a great team!

  4. I love it! We have two reservations as neighbors. These kids could be some of them. I wouldn’t doubt they have the same stereotype. My son was the prosecutor for one tribe and an advocate for the children. He made a difference in many. You are planting many seeds within them that will grow in so many ways!

  5. What an amazing gift you are giving these youth. It makes me want to share the same passion for the Native youth in Canada who likely share some similar persuasive opinions. Thanks for sharing!

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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