Young Navajo leaders claim awards

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Nov. 27, 2013

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Nothing gives more pride to Navajo youth than being recognized for their efforts to better the Native American community. A few Navajo youths got that recognition as part of the 2013 American Excellence in Leadership Awards presented by the Phoenix Indian Center.

Four Navajos -- Quentin Begay, 22, of Phoenix; Nicole Lucero, 16, of Mesa, Ariz.; Nadira Mitchell of Tucson, and Taishiana Tsosie of Sanders, Ariz. -- received leadership awards from the Phoenix Indian Center, and each of them was nominated in the youth category.

Being named a youth leader by the center doesn't come easy. A few of the requirements each nominee had to meet in order to be considered for the award include assisting the American Indian community by developing or showing leadership in self- or school-based clubs and activities, and demonstrating excellence in education, creativity and initiative.

"The awards are really to honor American Indian individuals in the state that have really shown, over their past work and effort, exemplary leadership," said Patricia Hibbeler, CEO of the Phoenix Indian Center, adding that the nominations for the awards are open and they come from the American Indian community in Arizona.

"All awards are based on exemplary leadership," Hibbeler added. "I think it benefits them by continuing to display their leadership qualities and help bring peers in the education system along to strive for those same leadership qualities. They are also the leaders of tomorrow and (we) recognize their leadership and hoping they instill those type of leadership qualities in others."

Begay, 22, originally from Cedar Ridge, Ariz., met those requirements and was named College Student of the Year as part of this year's American Excellence in Leadership Awards.

"I didn't know what the award was about or given out annually. It was a surprise," Begay said of his initial reaction to receiving the award, but after doing a little research about the award and what it takes to earn one he was honored to be chosen.

"It's a step in the right direction," Begay said, because he eventually wants to go into a master's program.

Begay received his bachelor's degree in social work from Arizona State University this past May, and he now works for NATIVE HEALTH in Phoenix as a REACH Community Advocate.

Through NATIVE HEALTH he works with the urban "Native American population of the metro Phoenix under a grant from the CDC granted to the University of Colorado-Denver," Begay said.

Begay was nominated for the award by his co-worker, Trudie Jackson. The reason why Begay was considered for the leadership award was because he developed a care assessment form for NATIVE HEALTH's patients who are diagnosed with diabetes.

Begay said he coordinated the patients' care by connecting them with the resources they needed. Begay made sure patients were seeing their provider, the diabetes educator as well as getting them to their other appointments including the podiatrist, optometrist and dentist.

"I also did some case management in targeting the patients who had uncontrolled diabetes and trying to get them to the clinic to get care," Begay added.

The other awardee for College Student of the Year was Ruby Steele, Hualapai, majoring in Business Administration at Grand Canyon University.

Lucero was named High School Student of the Year for her leadership roles at Westwood High School in Mesa, Ariz.

Lucero, 16, is a junior at Westwood High where she is the co-president of Mesa Strength Youth Council, a mentor in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization, an AVID Scholar, activities director of the Native American Club, JV Basketball player and a Varsity Softball player all while keeping a 4.2 GPA.

"I think what they recognized is that I'm an excellent student. I try to help out in the community as much as I can and I'm always striving for the Native American community to excel," Lucero said, adding that she wasn't expecting to win.

"It's a really good honor that I am recognized for the things that I do. I'm happy that people are actually recognizing that I do a lot of stuff," Lucero added. "Everything that I've done has paid off so far."


Lucero was nominated for the leadership award by Raetava Yazzie, home school liaison for the Native American Education program for Mesa Public Schools.

"She's getting the recognition she deserves. She didn't know I was nominating her for anything," Yazzie said. She's happy that Lucero got the award, adding that "she's doing all of this because she wants to better herself and contribute what she has to the community."

Yazzie said she nominated Lucero based on her overall demeanor and outlook on education. "She's very humble about things," but she's also "extremely involved with Westwood high school and she takes the initiative," Yazzie added, saying that Lucero is known for being straightforward about things she's passionate about.

The other High School Student of the Year is LaRue Toney, Salt River Pima, attending Westwood High School and East Valley Institute of Technology.

Two even younger Navajo students were also recognized for their leadership qualities as Mitchell and Tsosie earned the title of Junior High School Students of the Year.

The Phoenix Indian Center announces the American Indian Excellence in Leadership Awardees each year, and this was its 3st year celebrating leaders within the community.

An award banquet was held for award winners on Nov. 19 at the Double Tree Resort in Tempe, Ariz.

The other awardees included John Lewis (Mohave/Pima/Tohono O'odham), Kent C. Ware Lifetime Achievement Award; LuAnn Leonard (Hopi), Phyllis J. Bigpond Lifetime Achievement Award; Randy Kemp (Euchee, Muscogee and Choctaw), Man of the Year; Mary Kim Titla (San Carlos Apache), Woman of the Year. Business of the Year went to Arizona Indian Gaming Association and Friend of the Community went to Arizona Science Center.

Information: www.phxindcenter.com.

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