The Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian health is pleased to announce that the 2016-2017 NativeVision year-round program has kicked off at four sites across the Southwest—Tuba City, Arizona, Whiteriver, Arizona, Shiprock, New Mexico, and Santo Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico, and on the Tonawanda Seneca Nation in upstate New York. NativeVision has been growing steadily every year and is now helping hundreds of American Indian children between third and eighth grade learn how to lead healthy lives and make smart decisions about their futures.
The NativeVision curriculum has four key themes: “Eat Healthy,” “No Drugs,” “Be Active,” and “Stay in School.” Children spend the first part of each session learning about the topic of the day, then get active with basketball, flag tag, and other games.
The program leaders enjoyed a positive reception from the children served this fall. Kids in Whiteriver were overjoyed to see NativeVision coordinator Sean Parker when they returned to class for the new school year. “I’m lucky because I’m the games guy,” said Parker, who has worked with the NativeVision program in Whiteriver on the White Mountain Apache reservation for seven years.
In addition to the after school program, NativeVision holds two-day “mini-camps” led by former professional and college athletes who serve as mentors to further encourage the youth to take care of their bodies, pursue education, and be physically active. In Tuba City, site coordinator Olivia Trujillo, who worked previously for our Center as a Research Program Assistant in Shiprock, NM, oversaw a soccer camp at Moencopi Day School last March. The camp benefited from a partnership between NativeVision and the Northern Arizona University (NAU) women’s soccer team. NAU players, along with the team’s head coach, Andre Luciano, helped the youth work on their skills through a variety of drills and gave them advice on school and life. "By the time the first sports clinics were over and lunchtime came around, all the children had a favorite player they looked up to,” Trujillo said. “They all wanted to sit by their mentor and eat with them. They enjoyed that time to converse with these college student-athletes and get to know them more—There was not one person in the cafeteria that didn’t have a smile on their face.”
This year, the NativeVision program in Shiprock also held a mini-camp that gave campers the opportunity to practice soccer, lacrosse, and traditional games, play Bingo with Navajo words, and try Blue Corn popsicles and Navajo Tea. As with the Tuba City mini-camp, the highlight for many kids was the time spent with their coach/mentors. “The kids and coaches bonded very fast. The kids kept telling me how much they connected with their coaches,” Shiprock coordinator Leonela Nelson said. Nelson has been with our Center since 2013 and is working to complete a Public Health certificate through the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
We anticipate the next mini-camp will take place on the Santo Domingo Pueblo. Site coordinator Avery Aguilar, a current undergraduate student at the University of New Mexico, is working with tribal programs to arrange a camp this fall. “We believe collaborating with tribal programs will enable us to reach a wider audience, increase participation and most importantly, create awareness around physical activity and the importance of leading healthy lifestyles and pursuing education,” Aguilar said.
Additional mini-camps will take place in spring 2017 at other NativeVision sites.