“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!