On June 8, new officers of the Young River People’s Council (YRPC) were inaugurated into office by Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Chief Judge Ryan Andrews. The youth nominated Jessica Ruiz as their new president, Antonio Briones Jr. as vice-president, and Elaina Gutierrez as secretary.
SRPMIC Special Projects Manager Ruben Guerrero emceed the event. Guerrero was a member of the YRPC in his youth and served in all of the officer positions, including president. He said that his experience as a member of the YRPC helped him discover his interest in political science and decide where he wanted to go in his career.
Au-Authm Action News Reporter Tasha (Villalpando) Silverhorn was also a past YRPC president. As the current group of new officers was sworn in, she spoke about the benefits of the program and how she was honored to travel around the country and meet different dignitaries during her time on the YRPC.
Silverhorn encouraged the youth to participate and to encourage their friends, family and peers to take part in the YRPC. If they do, she said, “In 10 to 20 years from now, we will have a strong leadership in the Community.”
Youth Development Specialist-Youth Council Anita Rivers takes great pride in training and mentoring the students of the YRPC to be future leaders of the Community. Rivers has been working with Salt River youth for more than 25 years and loves her job. She said, “Seeing the excitement in the students’ faces when they understand something for the first time [is so gratifying]. I notice their growth physically and mentally. Each [student] is amazing.”
Rivers teaches the students about their O’odham or Piipaash culture in the preteen Youth Council, and as the youth get older she teaches them about how federal and state laws can affect Salt River. She also teaches the children how to introduce themselves in front of audiences.
Newly appointed YRPC President Jessica Ruiz and Vice-President Antonia Briones attended the National Congress for American Indians (NCAI) Mid-Year Conference in Milwaukee June 13–16 to learn about leadership in Indian Country. YRPC members will attend other conferences throughout the year as a chance to learn about other Native American governments and tribal issues.