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Attending the UNITY Conference in San Diego

YRPC taking a picture together before entering in the Culture Grand line-up and Culture Night.

Hello, my name is Jocyln Lewis and I am a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) worker for the summer, working at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Community Relations Office. I’m also a Young River People’s Council member and had the opportunity to join them for the UNITY Conference in San Diego this year [July 5-9]. My experience at UNITY was fun since I mostly did schoolwork, sports and summer school throughout my sophomore and freshman years.

Each day, the UNITY Conference started off with a UNITY drum, a blessing and a cultural presentation. There is a schedule filled with events happening each day.

We had awesome keynote speakers on different days, like Supaman, [photographer and storyteller] Matika Wilbur (founder of Project 562) and Brooke Simpson (finalist on “The Voice”).

Our representatives, Eli Fulwilder and Nalani Lopez, participated in the line-up for the grand entry.

The second day was the Culture Night, which we did with our sister tribes Tohono O’odham, Ak-Chin and Gila River.

Our treasurer, Eli Fulwilder, gave a speech and a message saying “I can, I will and I must.”

On the third day was the Wellness Warriors rotation, in which we switched workshops based on the color of our lanyard. Workshops were led by the Thompson brothers (professional lacrosse athletes), the Natia O Le Pasefika Polynesian dance group, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (MMA Bellator Women’s Flyweight World Champion), Abram Benally (“American Ninja Warrior”) and youth leaders from the ACORN Project with the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center.

Alyssa Andrews presenting the YRPC’S workshop along with Sommer Lopez (not pictured). Sommer Lopez, Cianna Dallas, in front leading the YRPC members at Culture Grand line-up Night.
My favorite speaker was [Ruth Samuelu, director of] Natia O Le Pasefika. She had her children there to help present her workshop. They were very fun to watch dancing, and they taught us a few words to show their culture. They taught us different words of how many times we should clap and rubbing hands together. They showed a dance that has a sad and beautiful story of these two lovers. They interacted with youth by having them dance up there and trying their best to move their hips side to side. At the end she had her youngest go up front in a Moana costume, which was very cute. The rest was fun and I heard Abram Benally’s workshop was good also.

Everyone who went to the YRPC workshop made a bunch of creative things with just fruit and veggies, like a car, little poncho man, a frog and more. Our judges, [SRPMIC Council Member Michael] Dallas and D'Andre Pilger’s mother Wechoni, picked two winners, which were a car and the little poncho man.

That night was also the night of the banquet. The banquet was great. We had the opportunity to go up on stage to accept the Youth Council of the Year Award.

The last day at UNITY was short. UNITY did the orientation for the newly elected National UNITY Council (NUC) Executive Committee. UNITY’s executive director announced the location of the 2019 UNITY Conference, which will be in Orlando, Florida.

I am glad to be able to join this year’s UNITY with the youth council. I am glad to know everyone a little more and meet our sister tribes. This year of UNITY was amazing and to me unexpected, and I can’t wait to see what UNITY will be like in Orlando, Florida in 2019. I hope new members can enjoy their first year of UNITY next year.