background image

New Program for Youth called Native STAND

Native Students Together Against Negative Decisions (Native STAND) will be a new pilot program in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community put together by the Health and Human Services Prevention Intervention Services division. The program will be featured in the Youth Services Department’s After-School Program.

Health educator Vurlene Notsinneh-Bowekaty recently attended the training for the program, which helps Native teens make better decisions and learn how to live a healthy lifestyle. Native youth in the United States exhibit very high-risk behaviors regarding personal-safety issues, such as not wearing seatbelts, driving in cars with drunk drivers, getting into physical fights, and at-risk behaviors connected with drugs, alcohol and sexual activity.

Addressing these high-risk behaviors, Native STAND is for youth ages 12 to 17. Parent consent is required. The program promotes both sexual abstinence and risk reduction. It focuses on preventing pregnancy, HIV and STDs and promotes empowerment, skill development and mutual support to help youth with communication skills, such as how to say no when offered drugs or what to do when facing a problematic situation.

The program will run for 27 weeks, with a 90-minute session held once a week with the After-School Program. Presentations will deal with honoring diversity and respecting differences, developing healthy relationships, establishing goals and values, and cultural awareness.

“They will learn about reproductive health and the downside of hooking up,” said Notsinneh-Bowekaty. “We will also discuss the different types of birth control and also learn about how different medical facilities other than IHS (Indian Health Service).”

Notsinneh-Bowekaty explained that this is all about youth taking care of themselves as a healthy individuals and how drugs and alcohol cause youth to make poor decisions. Hopefully, after all this training, the kids will become peer educators and share what they learned with other youth.

A great thing about this program is that it is all centered on Native American issues, Notsinneh-Bowekaty said, because only rarely do similar programs apply specifically to Native American youth and the challenges they face on the reservation.

The Native STAND program will feature special guest speakers and presenters, including actual teen parents who will share their experiences.

“We are hoping to do an incentive at the end of the 27 lessons which is hopefully encouraging to them to attend every week,” said Notsinneh-Bowekaty, “as well as a graduation at the end of the whole program.”

There will also be a suggestion box available if the kids do not want to ask a question out loud.

Native STAND comes from the Portland Indian Health Board. Salt River is the 2016 program; out of 20 tribal health educators, Notsinneh-Bowekaty was chosen to implement the program.

“I really feel it is going to be a very positive program for the Community,” said Notsinneh-Bowekaty.