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Cherokee Nation awards summer youth program participants

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A special banquet was held July 28 to honor young adults who received awards from the Office of Cherokee Nation Career Services, with three of the recipients receiving special honors as well.

The students had all taken part in the nation’s Supplemental Youth Employment Program. SYEP is an outstanding program that provides low-income participants with up to eight weeks of hands-on work experience during the summer months.

Participating youngsters were paid minimum wage while working 40 hours per week for approximately eight to nine weeks. During their summer internships they developed decision-making and leadership skills.

Outstanding Basic Skills awards were presented to Ray Pettit and Cheyenna Randolph. Basic Skills classes target 14- to 15-year-olds, teaching math, reading and money management fundamentals as well as basic rules of job etiquette. Participants in these classes are also required to complete a community project.

Outstanding Participant Award recipients were Brent Tyler Baker, Candace Williams, Chris Doublehead and Tyann Cato. Awards for Student Leadership were given to Rebecca Panther, Ryan Doyeto and Shawn Lochner.

The program’s Overall Outstanding Participant was Melissa Butler, a 2006 Tahlequah High School graduate. “I wanted to get experience in the health care field and couldn’t do it alone – I needed help,” Butler said. “The most valuable thing I’ve learned is that I take responsibility more seriously. I definitely want to stay in the health care field after this summer.”

SYEP is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and is designed to provide meaningful work experiences that help American Indian youth between the ages of 16 and 21 to acquire the skills and training needed for future employment. Participants are placed in public- and private-sector jobs within the surrounding community, enhancing their educational and vocational skill development. When possible, the career goals of the students are matched to the jobs in which they are placed.

Cherokee Nation Employment and Training Program Manager Barbara Worley believes that the program teaches students what will be expected of them as employees in the real-job world. “This program brings a lot of participants out of their shells, and most are really glad, not just for the job experience, but for the extra money the job brings in,” Worley said.

More than 100 businesses participated in this year’s program, including the Sam Hider Clinic in Jay, the Cherokee Nation Natural Resources Department, Health Department and Career Services Adult Education Literacy Center, W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital, the Grand Lake Family YMCA in Grove and Adair Computers in Stilwell. Grand Lake Family YMCA and Adair Computers received Outstanding Job Site awards. Michael Welch of Oaks Indian Mission, Scottie Adair of Adair Computers, Martha Force of W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital and Caroline Weaver of the Delaware County Court in Tahlequah were all named Outstanding Supervisors.

“We are very thankful for our many excellent job sites and are grateful that employers take the time to help our kids,” Worley said.

In addition to these awards, three participants – Ray Pettit, Cheyenna Randolph and Natosha Jones – were selected to spend two all-expenses-paid weeks at the National Indian Youth Police Academy. Only 60 students are chosen to attend the academy, which will be held this month at Fox Valley Technical College Police Academy in Appleton, Wis.

According to Franky Dreadfulwater of the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, the students who applied for these positions did so under very competitive conditions. “The Cherokee Nation Marshal Service wants to recruit people from our Cherokee communities to interest them in police work, and this academy may be the thing that sends them to school and may help steer them in the direction of police work,” said Dreadfulwater. “Several other Oklahoma tribes will be sending students to the academy, so we will be in good company.”

“We want to create and help students achieve high expectations,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith. “We want to create in them the awareness that they can learn to support their families and help rebuild the Cherokee Nation through what they learn in this program this summer.”