Florida Indian Youth Program celebrates 27th year

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TALAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Indian Youth Program celebrated its 27th year July 7 - 21. Native students from Florida and Georgia came to Tallahassee for the annual event, which features a two-week-long educational experience.

Classes during the program consist of math, writing, financial literacy, computers and tribal government. The students stayed in Florida State University dorms, while the classes were held at the Leon County Civic Center in downtown Tallahassee. Sponsored by the Florida governor's Council on Indian Affairs, the youth program is a nonprofit organization.

As part of the tribal government class, Travis Trueblood, Choctaw, of Trueblood Law Group, gave students a unique opportunity to explore the issues of tribal sovereignty as they relate to tribal government. After studying various tribes' constitutions, the students created their own tribal constitution and bylaws. FGCIA Executive Director Joe A. Quetone, Kiowa, assisted students with their tribal elections and this year was the first in which an all-female council was voted in.

A new program added this year was financial literacy. Students were taught money management and how to develop a spending plan.

The Florida Indian Youth Program has two levels: the youth program, which consists of students age 14 - 17, and the leadership program, consisting of high school seniors or recent graduates. These students were led by Rick Whitfield, a manpower specialist for the FGCIA. Whitfield took the students to the different educational departments at Florida A&M University and Florida State University.

''There is so much that is out there for the students. I would just like them to know their options,'' Whitfield said.

The leadership program gives students a chance to talk with different educational departments that they may not have considered as an educational choice. The students go away with the knowledge of what they need to do to complete the required field, how much money they will make and how long they will have to go to school. It opens their eyes and even changed some of their minds and sparked interest.

This year, students had the opportunity to meet and pose for pictures with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

Robert Kellam, employment and training director for FGCIA, told the governor about the Youth Program's mission to teach Native students about tribal government and the historical relationship with federal, state and local governments. The governor said he was very impressed and proud of each and every student.

The program ended with an awards banquet for the students and a victory celebration where the student planned and funded through their own tribal council.