By Benjamin Zamora
(Pueblo de Cochiti)
The Cochiti Youth Council (CYC) was founded on May 15, 2017. It was a collaborative effort between Cochiti Family Services and Five Sandoval Indian Pueblos, Inc. (FSIP) Prevention Program. CYC was started as a component in the Cochiti Family Services Grant to target youth and young adults ages 13-24. The FSIP Prevention Program already had a strong base working with the youth of Cochiti Pueblo. FSIP was providing prevention information and activities at Santa Fe Indian School and Bernalillo High School, as well as after school/ weekend programming on and off the pueblo. Our goal in the prevention program is to provide a safe environment for the youth through the project venture experiential education program and to provide youth with information on Methamphetamine and Suicide Prevention, Alcohol, Tobacco, and other Drug Abuse (ATODA).
With a resilient staff base from Cochiti Family Services and FSIP, we were able to come up with a teen night where youth and their parents came to have dinner and hear about the teen-driven Youth Council. That same night, after dinner and a brief discussion, we had held our first election resulting in a Council of ten youth and five members.
In a short amount of time (meaning the next day) the Youth Council was off to work. They started off with a cleanup around all tribal buildings picking up trash, with the focus being Commercial Tobacco litter. This cleanup was followed by a Water Event for the kids, Traditional Game Day with snacks and snow cones, Drug and Alcohol Data presentations from surveys collected from community members, and Community cleanups/assistance for elders (such as yard cleaning, chopping wood, and dusting inside the home). They have assisted other peers with high school senior projects, but the most heartfelt contribution was a secret CYC fundraiser for a member and her mother to help them pay for some expenses that they needed to travel to the MARFAN Foundation.
The importance of having a youth Council enables the youth as a foundation to address some issues that we as adults may not be aware of. CYC has given the youth a voice to express themselves within a positive framework and has empowered them to conduct constructive change within the community. CYC has maintained and gained support/ respect from traditional leaders and created a venue to work with and collaborate with other departments within the tribal administration to help address some of the gaps within the community.
As year one comes to a close, we in the Cochiti Youth Council are ending with three advisors, two from Cochiti Family Services and one from FSIP Prevention. We also have two supporting staff from Cochiti Prevention Program and one from FSIP. But most importantly, we have the support of the youth’s parents and the Governors of Cochiti Pueblo. Our hope is that these amazing individuals will continue to inspire their peers and community members, and as a result, GIVE BACK TO OUR PUEBLO.