The Sovereign Native Youth STEM Leadership Academy is one of MATC’s most hands-on experiences and activity-oriented programs. This year marked the return of an in-person event after the COVID-19 pandemic limited the outreach to online activities the previous two years. The program was in full swing on June 26th with 32 students and a full agenda.
The annual program is open to high school students in Native communities from Lincoln, Omaha, Macy, Winnebago, Niobrara, and Santee in Nebraska. They are brought to The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s (UNL) campus to garner interest in pursuing a higher education, emphasizing Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math, as well as the use of the Arts in those subjects. This is accomplished through a variety of events and making connections with professionals in academia and research-focused careers.
The program’s theme was “Native Youth for the Seventh Generation,” meaning activities would commit to the Seventh Generation Principle of Indigenous people. In other words, the activities were focused on how making decisions today should benefit seven generations into the future. After arriving on Sunday, Worlds of Connections led the group in ice breakers designed to show students the importance of using their network. For each of the following days, the students broke into groups to participate in activities based in three categories: “Cultural Appreciation: Visual Arts”, “Health and Wellness”, and “Nature Stewardship”, which each served to strengthen values the students could take into their own lives and communities.
MATC thanks a number of organizations for their time and material sponsorship throughout the program. For examples, The Bay taught kids about staying fit through skateboarding, and the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center allowed them to analyze and catalogue field samples. The Great Plains Art Museum, Joslyn Art Museum, and Bemis Center for Contemporary Art gave the students a chance to make and appreciate art and Native cultures. There were also numerous places on the University campus that were utilized for activities. To see the full list of scheduled activities, sponsors, and professional leaders please view our program at https://matc.unl.edu/2022-academy.
The program also featured two panels; the first featured Native American Professionals who shared their career paths and the second hosted current college students who were able to give insight on the more general experience of attending a university. Many of the students on that panel were also mentors throughout the program and participated in the activities with the high school students. When also factoring in the activity leaders from the different organizations, it is safe to say the students left the program with an expanded network of professionals and university students representing a variety of backgrounds.
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