By Tasha Silverhorn
Two Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members were recognized by UNITY Inc. (United National Indian Tribal Youth) to receive 2020 UNITY 25 Under 25 Youth Leadership Awards. Cousins Caleb Dash and Kennise McGertt were the first two SRPMIC youth recognized since the establishment of the 25 Under 25 program in 2014.
The 25 Under 25 Youth Leadership Awards are held every other year. Youth across Indian Country who apply for this award put in an application with five recommendations and answer questions about their leadership skills and how they have helped their communities.
Due to COVID-19, the two were unable to be recognized in person at the 2020 UNITY Conference in Washington, D.C., because it was cancelled. But they did get recognized in a virtual ceremony. This year the conference was held in Dallas, Texas, July 2-6, and virtually. Dash and McGertt were the only two youth from the Community who attended the Dallas conference in person. Dash recalled sitting with friends, and to his surprise he and others who received the 25 Under 25 Youth Leadership Award in 2020 were called on stage to introduce themselves and be recognized. The winners took a group photo along with the Unity Peer Guides and Ambassadors, and they received shirts.
“One of the main reasons I applied for the award is because you can come up with your own platform. What I like to do is a bit of work with the Community, to create a youth phrase book with the Cultural Resources Department,” said Dash. “I just got an internship with them; we are working on book with a bunch of phrases for traditional words.”
Dash wishes to continue to do his best to serve the Community and help other Indian youth he meets at the conferences. “[I want to help them] come up with ways they can save their cultural traditions, whether it’s through words, songs or dances, to help preserve their culture.
“I would like to thank my Boy Scout leader, Ben Scabby. He was a huge influence on me. And of course, my Youth Council leaders, Christine Porter and Angela Williford,” said Dash.