Mabuhay! (“Cheers” in Tagalog)
My name is Bettina, and I am the Newman’s Own Foundation Fellow at the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) at the Aspen Institute located in Washington, D.C. It’s wonderful being back in the D.C. area having spent four years away for college. Although I was born in the Philippines, I have spent most of my life in “The DMV” (that’s D.C., Maryland, and Virginia – more exciting than the other DMV). I graduated this past May from Trinity College in Hartford, CT with degrees in Psychology and Film Studies. As the Fellow at CNAY, I have a range of responsibilities, including being the unofficial resident graphic-designer, as well as occasional project manager.
In just the span of three short months, I have had so many unique and amazing opportunities working with CNAY. From learning more about Native cultures and tribal communities, to interacting with inspiring youth working to uplift their communities, to casually bowling at the White House. Yes – you read that right. Bowling. At the White House. With President Obama.
Just kidding! The President wasn’t there.
HOWEVER, he was at the White House Tribal Nations Conference (WHTNC), which was held the last week of September. So, I did have the opportunity to see him in person – AND even stand within two feet of him! (I know, even I can’t believe it – good thing I have video proof).
As one of the only national organization dedicated to advocating for Native youth, CNAY was in charge of helping select and prepare the seventy Youth Delegates at the 2016 White House Tribal Nations Conference and Youth Gathering representing their tribes and the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative. My specific role in the entire WHTNC machinery included designing the graphics for the Gen-I social media campaign that week. Besides the bonus of breathing the same air as POTUS, it was reward enough to see all the Youth Delegates engaged both at the conference and through social media, and be honored by government officials, agencies, and each other.
In addition to the amazing opportunities my fellowship has offered and the education that I have had the chance to expand on, the one thing I am most grateful for is being a part of such a caring and dedicated team. I am the only Non-Native individual in our organization, and prior to my fellowship, had very little background knowledge on Native American culture. (Just a little over three months ago, I didn’t even know “American Indian” was a politically correct term.) Yet the CNAY team welcomed me wholeheartedly without any hesitation. Everyone has been supportive of my efforts to learn all I can about the issues in Indian Country, and has been patient with my endless stream of naïve questions. It has truly been a privilege and an honor to serve as the Fellow at CNAY, and I am excited to see what else the next nine months will bring.
The featured photo is of me (Bettina) at the 8th Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference.