The mission of the Cherokee Youth Council (CYC) is to bring back the valued voice of youth that was the tradition in the days of the Cherokee Grand Council and enable youth to serve their community and develop leadership skills. The CYC was established in 2007 by Cherokee Preservation Foundation and continues to receive support from the Foundation and the EBCI Cooperative Extension Program.
Recently, the Cherokee Youth Council represented the Eastern Band of Indians at the United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) conference in Phoenix, AZ. Simon Montelongo of the Cherokee Youth Council was elected to represent the Southeast Area Caucus, making him the first EBCI member to serve on UNITY’s national board.
“Simon is a tremendous leader in our community and we are so proud of him for taking on such an amazing national position,” said Sky Kanott, Cherokee Youth Council program manager. “Our youth council strives to empower youth within our community and to give them a voice even beyond the Qualla Boundary.”
The Go Green Team is closely associated with the CYC. It is involved in the Generations Qualla environmental initiative, which seeks to promote a healthy, sustainable environment within the Qualla Boundary and throughout the region. The Go Green Team has made many presentations to various individuals, youth groups and other organizations about the benefits of recycling and what can and cannot be recycling by Tribal Recycling on the Qualla Boundary. The team has given out 2,000 reusable grocery bags that the team designed and purchased at various events. The bags have a Cherokee symbol on them that means “endless.”
In 2007, the team adopted a two-mile stretch of highway located on Acquoni Road, starting at the Best Western Great Smokies Inn and ending at the traffic light by Pizza Inn. They made a four-year commitment and team members clean up along the road every four months.
Cherokee Youth Council members created a film about teenage pregnancy on the Qualla Boundary. They were concerned about the high number of Cherokee students who were becoming parents at a young age. They asked young parents to participate in the film and talk about their experiences. The idea was to give viewers food for thought.
The Cherokee Youth Council has inspired the formation of youth councils in Swain, Graham, Macon and Jackson counties that have also received Cherokee Preservation Foundation support.
The Cherokee Youth Council is supporting the new Seven Clans Grant Council (SCGC) which accepts youth-written grant applications for youth-led projects on the Qualla Boundary. Priority is given to projects that address drug and alcohol addiction, suicide, disease and illness, poverty and homelessness or abuse.
The SCGC makes grants between $100 and $1,000 for projects. The SCGC is supported by the Cherokee Youth Council with financial support from Cherokee Preservation Foundation. Training and technical assistance is provided by Leading to Change, Inc., part of the North Carolina Youth Giving Network.