On Tuesday, November 19, 16-year-old Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Kaily Toney was named one of two High School Students of the Year at the American Indian Excellence in Leadership Awards, presented by the Phoenix Indian Center. Toney was recognized at the 31st annual dinner celebration, which honored Business of the Year, Man and Woman of the Year and Students of the Year and was held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Phoenix/Tempe.
Toney was recognized for her outstanding achievement and hard work in school and in learning the skills to become a reporter. Toney attends Westwood High School and the East Valley Institute of Technology. Her interests are in multimedia. She is also a member of the Salt River Traditional Dance Group and the Young River People’s Council, for which she is currently serving as vice president. She has been successful in public speaking, networking, maintaining her culture and more.
After receiving her award, Toney gave a speech thanking all those involved in helping her become the outstanding young lady she is today.
“Receiving this award was both surprising and a very great honor for me,” she said. “I am sure you’ve all heard [the saying] that it takes a village to raise a child, and for me I believe this is true. There are many people who have helped me become the person I am today. They have helped with mentorship through education, culture and other things that we need in our lifestyles.”
As she continued, she thanked those who nominated her for the award and her godparents for the love and support they have given her. She also thanked the SRPMIC Community Relations Office, for giving her the opportunity to work in the profession that she hopes to pursue one day; and Vickie Andrews and Ricardo Leonard, for helping her learn the O’odham songs and dances of her culture when she was four years old. She also thanked her uncle Royce Manuel for helping her with her cultural understanding, and her parents for always being there for her.
“I am very humble and honored, but I feel this is not only my award, but it belongs to all my people from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community,” said Toney as she ended her speech.
To truly know Kaily you would have to completely understand her as an individual now and what struggles she had to endure in her past. A couple of obstacles that Kaily had endure in her childhood were ailments of speech and language delays that she had needed help with and needed additional attention. She also dealt with hearing impairment due to an accident in her early childhood. She overcame those obstacles with the emphasis on understanding, learning, and awareness. Because of her ailments she had to dedicate her time and focus on catching and keeping up with her peers and fellow students. The outcome of this determination and dedication is that she is a more focused and well-rounded daughter, student, and individual.
“Kaily is very focused on her life path, what she wants to accomplish in life, and what she dreams of accomplishing within her life,” said Kaily’s mom Kathy. “As her parents, family, friends and people that are close to her are very proud of what she has accomplished and are anticipating great things for her in the future. We all know that nothing is just given to us; we have to want to attain our dreams and goals. We would also like to thank the numerous individuals and families that have and continue to encourage and support our Kaily.”