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Tribal students participate in leadership program

One of the more unique experiences available to Tribal youth takes place each summer in Florida’s capital, and this year was no exception.

The 2019 Florida Indian Youth Program and Leadership Academy took place July 13 through July 27 at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Several Tribal students took part in the activities.

It’s a free program for Native American, Native Alaskan and Native Hawaiian youth tribal members and descendants from Florida and Georgia.

The youth portion is offered as a college preparatory program for those who are high school freshmen or sophomores.

The leadership academy is for juniors, seniors or recent graduates who are not older than 19.

This year’s Florida Indian Youth Program and Leadership Academy in Tallahassee saw participation from several Seminoles. (Photo Kajir “Kai” Harriott (CSSS))

Participants typically live in a residence hall on campus or nearby.

Classes and activities are held each day between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Those in the youth program learn about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), computer literacy and SAT/ACT preparation.

Leadership academy students are expected to gain leadership skills as well as independence during the course of the program.

From left, Luxi Billie, Adakai Robbins and Elyse Billie participate in the Florida Indian Youth Program in Tallahassee. (Photo Kajir “Kai” Harriott (CSSS))

All of the students practiced writing and learned more about tribal government issues, financial literacy and art.

They rack up more than 70 hours of classroom activities in all.

The evening hours and weekends are reserved for parties, trips to the mall and other activities like bowling.

Some students took college site tours and were able to explore academic programs of study they are interested in perhaps pursuing.

An awards banquet took place on the last night to recognize all the attendees.

Martha Santibanez, a K-12 adviser assistant in Brighton, visited the program for a few days – her first time making the trip.

Kaleb Thomas poses with his certificate of completion. (Photo Kajir “Kai” Harriott (CSSS))

“They had good feedback and were happy. The kids seemed to enjoy it,” Santibanez said.

She said there were two students from the Brighton Reservation who attended.

She said some students gave presentations and many did creative projects like making a bridge out of Popsicle sticks.

They did other arts and crafts and composed their own mission statements, too, Santibanez said.

“It was nice to see them come together. A lot of parents were out there interacting,” she said.

Kajir “Kai” Harriott, a student success coach at CSSS in Hollywood, attended part of the program with the students as did Unethia Brown, a K-12 assistant, also from Hollywood.

The “intensive away from home educational experience” is organized by the nonprofit Florida Governor’s Council on Indian Affairs.

The program was originally developed by the state of Florida to give Native American students the opportunity to spend two weeks in the state’s capitol and be exposed to higher education and state government.

More information is available at

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at