27 Jan The Voices of the Next Generation
Young people help determine the direction of CITC through involvement in youth leadership opportunities
Tayler Higgins sees herself as part of history. The 19-year-old CIRI shareholder comes from a family of Native leaders, including a grandmother who was involved in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and a cousin, Ivan Encelewski, who serves as the chair of CITC’s Board of Directors.
As a member of CITC’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC), Tayler gets to work closely with her cousin and the rest of the CITC Board—an opportunity, as she sees it, to influence future generations of Alaska Native youth.
“Our Native leaders in Alaska and around the country are seeing the importance of involving youth in these big discussions,” she explained. “With the YAC, we work with our board and bring ideas for education and for youth involvement. You know this work is making an impact. You must be very selfless in this work because much of the work we do will be making a positive impact for our future generations. Fifty years from now, it’s going to help another young person.”
Influencing CITC’s future
CITC’s YAC was founded in 2016 as a way to foster inter-generational programming and the transfer of knowledge and understanding between the CITC Board and young, future leaders. One aim of the YAC is to provide opportunities for youth to have a say in how the programs, services, mission and values of CITC reflect their own goals and priorities.
“The Youth Advisory Council has been an incredible resource in supporting CITC’s mission and goals. They have been heavily involved in our Tribal Partnership efforts around workforce and leadership development. The vision and voice exemplified by the YAC has further confirmed that our future is in very good hands.”
While the YAC is composed of five members between the ages of 18 and 24 who reside in the Cook Inlet region, the Board also established a second council to broaden leadership development and engagement opportunities for youth from the Cook Inlet Region.
CITC is currently recruiting youth for the Cook Inlet Region Tribal Youth Leadership Council (TYLC). Like YAC, the TYLC will learn about CITC’s strategic initiatives, services, and partnerships, and will act as a voice to inform the CITC Board, sharing what is most important to the next generation of Alaska Native leaders. They will also be part of planning and leading the annual Tribal Youth Leadership Summit. Interested youth can request an application to join the TYLC by emailing Larry Oskolkoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learning from each other
A former CITC intern and administrative apprentice, Tayler has participated on the YAC since 2019. She serves alongside Ann Caindec, Brittany Vo, Emme Peavy, and Paisley Protzman—young women who are all passionate about bringing their perspective to matters important to Alaska Native people.
“One thing that’s empowering to me is we’re Indigenous women. Most of us started off in internship roles here. We’re all from different areas, and we’re working with other people and our Elders, even outside of CITC. We’re sharing stories and continuing to involve our culture and heritage into our professionalism,” Tayler said.
Young people involved with CITC have an opportunity to develop their leadership skills and to share their stories and voices at the Tribal Youth Symposium and Leadership Summit, May 24 – 25. The summit invites youth ages 18 and up to engage in dialogue and activities related to education, career development, and leadership. Summit participants enjoy a variety of speakers, guests, and presentations—and this year’s lineup promises to offer incredible opportunities for youth to network and learn. For more information about the Tribal Youth Symposium and Leadership Summit, visit our webpage.
Recently, Tayler was invited to share her perspective on a national scale: With support from the CITC Employment and Training Services Department’s Youth Services, she traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the White House Tribal Youth Summit. There, she participated in roundtables on health care, language revitalization, food sovereignty, climate change, and youth leadership.
She also spoke on a panel about the mental health challenges faced by rural Alaskans.
“What are we going to do for people who struggle with actual mental health disabilities?” she questioned. “Many of our people in rural areas are struggling with mental health. They often don’t have access to good mental health care; there needs to be accessible and affordable mental health care for all Indigenous people. We need to put funding into mental healthcare for our rural areas and help those who are struggling..”
Through her involvement in CITC youth opportunities, Tayler is living out her passion for making her voice heard. She encourages other youth to do the same: “Sometimes youth are overlooked, but we have great knowledge. Our perspectives are vital, but many youth don’t know where to start. We all have that voice inside us to advocate for our people. Indigenous youth deserve a seat at all the table, and we need to make our way into rooms that haven’t had youth involvement before. We have a powerful voice, and we need to start making change now.”
Get involved! CITC has a wide range of youth activities and programs for all ages. You can make a difference in how CITC serves its youth: Apply to be part of the Cook Inlet Region Tribal Youth Leadership Council. Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis.
Or come network with other youth and talk about the topics important to you at the Tribal Youth Symposium and Leadership Summit, May 24 – 25. For more information, visit citci.org/2023-tribal-youth-symposium-leadership-summit.