The Cherokee Nation swore in its new 2016-17 Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council members on Tuesday to begin serving a one-year term volunteering and helping shape future tribal policy.
The leadership program started in 1989 and has more than 180 alumni, many who now work for the tribe.
The 17-member youth council learns the Cherokee Nation Constitution and bylaws and identifies issues affecting Cherokee youth to pass on to the Tribal Council and administration. Students meet monthly and also serve as tribal ambassadors.
During a short inauguration ceremony at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex Tuesday, Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. thanked the Cherokee youth for taking their first step in helping make the tribe bigger and better and continuing the tradition of great, young Cherokee leaders.
"Participating on the Tribal Youth Council is enlightening and empowering for any Cherokee citizen," said Hoskin. "These young people are cultivating their skills by volunteering for public service and learning more about our tribal government and our unique culture. Additionally, they act as a sounding board for our administration and our Tribal Council, so we have better two-way communication and understanding with our tribal youth and the issues important to them today."
Supreme Court Justice John Garrett gave the official oath of office to the youth council members.
Northeastern State University freshman Destiny Matthews is serving on the Tribal Youth Council a second consecutive year. Matthews said the Tribal Youth Council is a great opportunity for Cherokee youth to learn about the tribe.
"Being able to serve on the Tribal Youth Council is an amazing opportunity because we learn so much about our tribe, language and heritage while gaining leadership skills and, most importantly, learning the value of public service. I hope to gain more knowledge of my culture and heritage and meet other youth who have the same passion for their tribe," Matthews said.
Connors State College sophomore Jamie Garrett is serving for the first time on the council and hopes to develop her leadership skills and gain knowledge in order to help protect tribal sovereignty.
"I'm proud to serve on the Tribal Youth Council because it gives me an opportunity to be a voice and an example for the youth of my tribe. I'm excited to serve my community and make it better for everyone the best that I can. I hope to empower other young women to overcome the fear of failure and to work hard to achieve their goals," Garrett said. "I hope to gain more leadership skills and gain more knowledge about my tribe so I can help my generation preserve our tribal sovereignty."
The 2016-17 Tribal Youth Council members are: Bradley Fields, Locust Grove, Locust Grove High School; Alexa Fuson, Stilwell, Stilwell High School; Jamie Garrett, Tahlequah, Connors State College; Callie Horner, Chelsea, Chelsea High School; Camerin James, Fort Gibson, Fort Gibson High School; Andrew Jefferson, Tahlequah, Tahlequah High School; Austin Jones, Hulbert, Tahlequah High School; Destiny Matthews, Watts, Northeastern State University; Amari McCoy, Sallisaw, Carl Albert State College; Morgan McSpadden, Big Cabin, Rogers State University; Katelyn Morton, Park Hill, Sequoyah High School; Olivia Rains, Pryor, Pryor High School; Laurel Reynolds, Claremore, Claremore High School; Whitney Roach, Tahlequah, Sequoyah High School; Cade Russell, Pryor, Pryor High School; Chelbie Turtle, Park Hill, Sequoyah High School; and Madison Whitekiller, Claremore, Verdigris High School.