Voices of Native Youth

The Importance of Good Role Models for Native Youth

How Important Do You Think Good Role Models are to Native Americans? 

Most people have heard about Ben Carson, the famous neurosurgeon. But not everyone knows about his early life. According to one article about Ben Carson, “The family was very poor and to make ends meet Sonya sometimes toiled at two or three jobs simultaneously in order to provide for Ben and Curtis.” He grew up in the ghetto but stayed focused every time he felt down. As Ben grew up, his mother played a great role of being a mother and providing what she could. She was always lifting her boys up when they needed it the most. His mother always encouraged Ben to do his best. Despite all they have gone through, Ben Carson became successful as a neurosurgeon. 

Parents don’t realize how important it is to be good role models for Native youth. Teachers and parents need to be good role models because their kids watch what their teachers and parents do, more than they listen to what they say. Parents and role models need to be aware of the burden of poverty, family influence, and family involvement.

The Legacy of Poverty

Parents don’t realize that their life of poverty affects their children. For example, my grandparents only finished eighth grade and some of high school.  They didn’t notice that their lack of education would set a poor example for my parents. My parents didn’t finish high school and it continued the cycle of living in poverty. Since my parents didn’t finish high school, it is very difficult for them to find steady work. Good jobs require high school diplomas and that was something my grandparents and parents don’t have. In other words, I am at risk to continue the cycle of poverty and dropping out of school. 

Negative family actions influence kids to repeat the same behavior. For instance, some of my relatives act violently, make bad decisions, and drink alcohol. Their examples have affected us younger ones to act in negative ways. Seeing our older relatives act this way makes it difficult for me to resist acting the same way.

Teachers as Role Models

Family members have the opportunity to act as good role models for Native Youth. One high school student explains how. #ownvoices #nativeyouth #navajo #nativeamerican

As a Native American woman, I’ve experienced some teachers who wanted us to be successful and some who didn’t want us to succeed as a person. In the fifth grade, I had a Native American teacher who would put students down because they weren’t focused enough. I personally think older adults, like parents and teachers, should show good examples to kids who want to become better people. I’ve never been shown a good example from my relatives, and I could be capable of not showing good examples for myself and younger family members.

Families tell their kids to behave in a certain way, but their actions provide a different role model. For an example, my family has always told us kids to behave ourselves everywhere we went. When we’re in school, my siblings and I act in a good way because my family want us to do well, but sometimes they don’t act the way they expect us to act. They don’t realize that since their actions speak louder than words, it could affect our behavior everywhere else.

Relatives push us to do our best and to be really focused on what’s in front of us, but when they use alcohol, it drags us down with them. It affects my ability to stay positive and have a good mindset when relatives put me down because it hurts me. My personal opinion: I deeply feel like my relatives should be the ones lifting me up and encouraging me to keep striving for what is good for us. But sometimes they are the ones that make us feel worse by putting us down. Sometimes I put people down and continue the negative behavior that I have seen, but that’s not who I want to be. 

Native youth need good role models in order to succeed. Their families need to lead the way. #nativeyouth #rolemodel Click To Tweet

Actions Yell, Words Whisper

Based on my examples about my family, I still think families should be more involved in their children’s lives and should be able to be there for them in many different ways. I believe family support is important for Native youth. My family has lived in poverty, therefore, I am at greater risk of living in poverty, as I get older. That’s something I want to change as a person. Due to family influence, I haven’t gotten the chance to see with my own eyes what good family role models looks like. 

I have that power to show a great example to my younger siblings and show them what is good and to not act in a negative way. I also didn’t realize that God wants us to love everyone like he loved us, even if they are putting you down. Therefore, I want to become a better person and avoid the cycle of poverty. I want to provide a good role model for my younger siblings and avoid acting like the role models I’ve had in my life. I want to be the change in everyone’s eyes and show people that there is a bright side in life and that it’s not always about spreading negativity.

Aliandra has a Navajo-Mexican heritage. Her favorite things about high school are sports, doing math, journaling, singing, sleeping and taking photos. Her biggest goal is to become successful as a brain surgeon and for her voice to be heard in writing because sometimes it’s difficult to express yourself out loud. One of her pet peeves are BUGS and people with no fashion sense.

Why Students Become Troublemakers and Slackers (Even Good Ones)

Ever since I was in elementary school missing recess because everyone was too loud really peeved me. Every day was the same; students caused trouble for the teachers. Even in class they still wouldn’t settle down, and the teacher would give all of us extra work.

By punishing everyone for the misbehavior of a few, the good kids started to feel bad. Teachers need to understand that punishing everyone for one student’s behavior makes the rest of us want to give up.

Teachers need to understand that punishing everyone for one student's behavior makes the rest of us want to give up. #teachers #nativeyouth Click To Tweet

Every day in middle school it got worse than before. Sometimes troublemakers picked a fight with the teachers or started taking their anger out on others.

Whether in class or outside of of class, I just sat and watched them do their mischievous acts every day. I rarely reported them because sometimes they were mean to me and my sisters. Sometimes people around me would be bullied because they snitched on the troublemakers, and I didn’t want this to happen to me. I felt helpless to stop the cycle.

Look for the Reason Why

But maybe teachers need to do what I do before they punish everyone for one student’s behavior. Sometimes I look at the person and wonder how they were before they got labeled a troublemaker. I ask myself, “Why do they do this?”

Have you ever wondered why some kids don't do well in school? A high-school student looks at why kids become troublemakers and slackers. #Nativeyouth #student #dropout

The reason why troublemakers slack off is maybe they don’t like school or maybe it’s their home lives. The more I think about this, the more I feel sorry for them. If they’re having problems at home, they should talk to a counselor. If they don’t like school, they should tell their parents about it, or the teacher themselves.

Students need to deal with the problem instead of making trouble for the teachers and other students. I hate getting punished by having activities cancelled for a few days straight. Sometimes teachers even cancel educational ones, because of one or two students’ bad behavior.

I understand that people have days when they’re upset. Maybe a student or a teacher put them down and they feel that they must take their pain out on others by hurting them as well. Some kids even consider dropping out of school because of their issues at home or their issues at school.

Sometimes they even might just feel dumb being at school or have given up in class. Maybe they’re bored with what the teacher teaches because to them it’s the same thing over and over.

Why do kids become slakers and troublemakers? Maybe it isn't all their fault. #nativeyouth #teachers Click To Tweet

Why Troublemakers don’t Talk

Fighting in some schools is common. Some of the staff look into the cause of the fights so they could find a way to resolve the student conflict. But students don’t always want to explain themselves to adults because maybe they’ve been molested or worse and are afraid to tell someone. Adults need to think about things like that.

Sometimes kids act out because they are trying to punish a teacher for something the teacher did to one of their friends. Or maybe the principal suspended or expelled their friend so they might cause trouble for the teacher because of their missing friend.

The slacker might have a good reputation at school with the teachers, at least, but they sometimes act mean to to their peers.

It all starts in elementary school. Good kids might get in with the wrong crowd and they could end up in loads of trouble. I think the reason why kids slack off is because of their personal struggles, the teachers (sometimes), and being in with the wrong crowd. They learn to not value school and they try to make it interesting, even if they go about it in a strange way.

Kayla is a Navajo high school student who loves drawing, writing, and reading. One day, she’d like to become a writer. Meanwhile, she hates it when things go terribly wrong and when people fight.

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