ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - There is no denying that 19-year-old Larissa Tenorio, a Santo Domingo Pueblo student, has the passion and determination to be a future leader and make a difference in her Native community.
With her high school graduation just around the corner, and her plans to attend college and major in environmental law, she is already ahead of the game. Currently, Tenorio is also enrolled in a nine-week intensive program called ''Sustainable Global Leadership Alliance'' held in Albuquerque.
Founded by Myra Murphy-Jacob, who launched the program in 2006, SGLA is a training course for young adults ages 17 - 22 as future leaders in the realm of sustainability. The program is not only powerful in its leadership curriculum, but students also perform three and a half weeks of service work in India while developing emotionally intelligent leadership and sustainable systems thinking.
Tenorio, who is one of two Native students in SGLA's third class, spoke about her reasons for participating in the program.
''I found out about SGLA through one of my mother's friends who knew Myra and got me the phone number to call. After I talked to Myra and learned more about the program, I went on their Web site and put my application in. I knew right away that I wanted to get involved because I was already interested in the idea of sustainability and making a difference in my community. I knew SGLA would be an opportunity for me to develop leadership skills and improve my communication abilities. I was also interested in learning more about the environmental problems we face on a global level.''
Born in Santa Fe, Tenorio and her six siblings grew up knowing their Native traditions. Her pride in her people and culture was apparent in her ''who are you and what do you bring to the program'' video in which each student participates at the start of the SGLA course. In her video, she also shared why she decided to become an environmental law attorney:
''Knowing the tribal restrictions and laws are important, and through my education I just want to make sure things are done right and fair when decisions are made concerning our people. I want to help my tribe preserve our land and maintain a healthy environment to live in without worries of contamination to our soil, water and air.
''People need to realize that how we treat the Earth and our environment eventually affects us all.''
Twelve American Indian students completed the SGLA course in 2006. As Tenorio is about to join ranks with her fellow Native students, Murphy-Jacob shared a few words about Tenorio and what she has witnessed when students return from India and graduate from the program.
''Through the application process, I found out about Larissa and her interest in becoming an environmental law attorney. I could see her concerns and that there were obstacles that came up for her. I knew SGLA would be a great opportunity to launch herself and give her the courage and tools needed to put her through college. I now see her opening up and sharing herself with her non-Indian peers and developing relationships and connections through other groups.
''The greatest gift that our Native American students get when they reach India and see that there are more brown people than white is the realization that they are actually part of the majority worldwide. They really get a sense of connection to the global human family and that they are global citizens. They acquire a greater sense of connection and don't feel so isolated when they return to their communities. They experience the world and stay connected, and I think that is huge. They take that experience and share it with their people. They also return with a greater sense of gratitude and appreciation for their culture, as well as the beauty of it,'' Murphy-Jacob said.
For more information about the SGLA program, visit their Web site at www.sgla.org.