5 Native Youth Honored as Champions for Change

The Center for Native American Youth honored five amazing Native youth from all over the United States the week of March 10 as Champions for Change.

The Center for Native American Youth honored five amazing Native youth from all over the United States the week of March 10. The five youths, who range in age from 16 to 23, were selected by CNAY for their accomplishments in Indian country. The youths and their chaperones were flown to Washington, D.C. to meet with their respective state leaders and to participate in leadership related activities.

The center’s founder and chairman, former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan held events in Washington, D.C. including youth meetings with Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs Jodi Gillette and the new Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Senator Jon Tester.

“Our Champions of Change program is designed to celebrate the achievements of some Native American youth who are doing important and inspiring work to improve the lives of others,” Dorgan said. “Native American youth have had a more difficult road to travel. Too often they have been left behind by government policies that made grand promises but failed to deliver on education, health care and more. These Champions for Change are making good things happen by their own initiative and we salute them.”

The five youth selected as 2014 Champions for Change are:

Elizabeth Burns, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, 18; hometown: Claremore, Oklahoma

Danielle Finn, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, 23; hometown: Bismarck, North Dakota

William Lucero, Lummi Nation, 17; hometown: Ferndale, Washington

Keith Martinez, Oglala Lakota Sioux, 20; hometown: Pine Ridge, South Dakota

Lauren McLester-Davis, Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, 16; hometown: De Pere, Wisconsin

Elizabeth Burns is the president of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council and is a youth mentor on nutrition, obesity and eating disorders.

Favorite Quote: “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

Vincent Schilling

Champion for Change Elizabeth Burns

How do you feel about being selected?

I feel so honored. I am still having a hard time believing that I really am a 2014 Champion for Change. It truly is a blessing.

I have been working on a peer-to-peer mentoring program as well as a health blog. My focus is health, nutrition, eating disorders, and obesity. I plan to present at multiple schools and talk about these important issues. I would also like to get more youth to be mentors and publish my health promotion blog in the upcoming months to connect with more youth.

After I graduate I plan on attending Northeastern State University and go into optometry. I am currently the president of the Cherokee Nation Tribal youth Council and a 2014 Remember the Removal bike rider.

RELATED: Cherokee Nation Selects 2014 Remember the Removal Riders

Danielle Finn is a tutor, headstart teacher, dance teacher, mid-dakota teen clinic advisor, and an intern for Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

Favorite Quote: “You can have everything taken from you in life…your home, your land—but the one thing that cannot be taken is your knowledge.” – My Grandparents

Vincent Schilling

Champion for Change Danielle Finn

How do you feel about being selected?

Being selected has been such a huge honor! I really appreciate the opportunity that has been presented to me by the Center for Native American Youth. I am just really happy and surprised to be recognized for the work I do for my people.

In high school I was selected to be a part of the leadership organization called the “Mid-Dakota Teen Clinic Advisory Board” and was the only representative that was Native American. It was a group of young positive leaders in the Bismarck/Mandan community that traveled around the state of North Dakota to talk to schools and their peers about current issues that young people face, such as alcohol and substance abuse and teen pregnancy.

While in college and currently I am a volunteer teacher at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Head Start and on the weekends I am a volunteer dance instructor. Most importantly as a teacher I have the opportunity of sharing my Lakota language and traditions with the younger students. Before the students leave for kindergarten I ensure that they know their colors, numbers, and animals in Lakota as well as basic phrases.

William Lucero is a member of Lummi Nation Teens Against Tobacco.

Favorite Quote: “When life knocks you down, try and land on your back because if you can look up, you can get up.” – Les Brown

Vincent Schilling

Champion for Change William Lucero

How do you feel about being selected?

I feel so honored to have the opportunity to participate in such an event!

I am a member of the Lummi Nation T.A.T.U. Group (Teens Against Tobacco Use). The main focus of the group is to teach youth about the harmful effects of smoking. We also encourage Native youth to never start smoking.

Keith Martinez works with Lakota Children’s Enrichment and is a Youth Ambassador with Youth Service America for South Dakota.

Favorite Quote: “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” – Robert Kennedy

Vincent Schilling

Champion for Change Keith Martinez

How do you feel about being selected?

Proud, amazed, awed, honored and energized to do more to support youth led efforts in my community.

I am a Presidential Scholar and Gates Millennium Scholar at Villanova, studying communications. I have been an advisor to Lakota Children’s Enrichment, Inc. (LCE) since high school and have helped shape its projects. I am now the chair of the Youth Advisory Board and help run meetings, training and leadership sessions for our Youth Board.

Last summer, I helped run an information booth at the pow wow, gave out prizes to the Tiny Tots dance that LCE sponsored and helped lead and spoke at the first ever Game Changers Youth Summit. I am a 2013-14 Youth Service Ambassador for the State of South Dakota, with Youth Service of America, and on Global Youth Service Day in April, I will be helping Lakota Children’s Enrichment run a Youth Summit on Pine Ridge Reservation.

Lauren McLester-Davis is co-founder of First Book of Greater Green Bay, which has put 15,000 new books into the hands of children so far.

Favorite Quote: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Vincent Schilling

Champion for Change Lauren McLester-Davis

How do you feel about being selected?

I am honored to be chosen and blessed to be able to continue my family’s legacy with a commitment to community.

I believe the love of learning and reading starts from home and reading is the cornerstone of everyone’s life as it fosters creativity, language and vocabulary. I co-founded First Book – Greater Green Bay in 2007.

In January, I received a check for $4,000 from the Green Bay Packer Foundation on behalf of my 2,500 hours of community service. With my fundraising efforts over the years and with this 2014 check I will have provided 18,000 books to children in need in my community.