Annual conference enlightens and educates ◆ By Mike Hiles
The first Dream the Impossible youth conference for middle and high school Native American students was held at the Soboba Indian Reservation in partnership with Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health (RSBCIH), Pechanga Youth Center and a few others. Twelve years later, about 400 youth gathered at the California State University, San Marcos campus to participate in cultural and insightful workshops and to learn about future college opportunities on April 21.
Since the start, Soboba Tribal T.A.N.F. has served as a strong partner and its Site Manager Harold Arres and Program Specialist II Annalisa Tucker served on the planning committee for the conference that is hosted by Riverside and San Diego county tribes.
“Students were transported in from southern and central California, as well as Arizona tribes,” said Shonta Chaloux, who also served as an adviser and planning committee member. “I like that this is a tribally-hosted event held in our own back yard annually and is provided to all Native youth free of charge.”
Tucker helped chaperone a group of 15 youth from the Soboba Tribal T.A.N.F. program at this year’s conference.
“Our staff recruited the youth because attending DTI is one of our UNITY requirements,” she said. “We enjoy seeing this conference grow every year and the positive impact it has on the youth. They are able to explore their culture and network with local Native youth and see Native leaders in positive roles while hearing them speak on overcoming the struggles facing our communities.”
RSBCIH Health Educators Geneva Mojado and Amanda McMorris work with the Native Challenge Department, which aims to promote the health and wellbeing of youth and families through a range of services including prevention education, clinical linkage and community awareness.
Their hands-on workshop “Sorting Out Life Challenges” was aimed to assist youth in recognizing challenging parts of their lives, determining areas that need to be changed and accepting the parts that are out of their control.
Eighth-grader Hattie Arres wanted to attend the conference to meet new people and get more leadership experience while Mkilawish Arres wanted to learn more about Native culture.
“One thing I learned is that ‘haters’ can be helpful by showing you things about yourself that you can improve,” said Hattie, 13. “I attended the Ninja Warrior workshop and learned that one person can change a whole life.”
“Angel Warrior” was presented by Abram Benally, from the Navajo Nation, who strives to inspire a generation through calisthenics and is an advocate for suicide prevention through this natural body weight fitness style.
Each Native Calisthenics workshop consisted of hands-on physical activities including stretching and various obstacle challenges to go through from the show American Ninja Warrior. Topics ranging from bullying/cyberbullying to substance abuse and suicide prevention were presented alongside the physical activities.
Riverside area siblings Kahdee and Kaya Pollard had a great time attending the conference for the first time.
“The obstacle course was a highlight for me because it was fun,” said Kahdee, 12.
Francisca Rivera, a seventh-grader at Noli Indian School at the Soboba Reservation, was interested in learning about different colleges through the College and Resource Fair and the College Explorations workshop presented by Tribal Liaisons from UC and Cal State colleges.
“The conference was good and it helped me experience new things,” said Francisca, 13.
She made a few items at the cultural activities areas and enjoyed the workshop presented by college athletes.
Moderator Clyde Miller, counselor and football coach at Noli, hosted the workshop: NCAA Athletes Tell All, featuring a panel of past and present Native college athletes sharing their experiences, providing tips for the scouting process and offering advice on how to balance school and sports.
Luisa Rivera, 12, was impressed with the number of Native Americans she got to interact with during the day-long event.
“I have told my friends and family how much fun it was,” she said.
The Noli sixth-grader was one of many attendees who enjoyed the workshop hosted by Mike Bone, brothers from the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. The award-winning recording artists, dancers and motivational speakers attended DTI for the first time. Lil Mike (BigFaith) and F.U.N.N.Y.B.O.N.E. presented the “Dream Big” workshop.
“We like to promote to the youth, and everyone else, to be comfortable with who you are and don’t try to fit in,” they said. “Dream big, work hard and never give up. All of our music promotes sobriety and positivity to inspire all to be the best versions of themselves.”
The duo believe that everyone can benefit from their music equally because it is positive, uplifting and fun. For more information, visit MikeBoneNation.com.