I used to be the one who would sit in the back of the room & cling to my Mom. After being bullied in school I didn’t think I or my voice mattered or that I was beautiful. It was only when I attended the NCNAYO (North Carolina Native American Youth Organization) conference, a State wide conference for Native youth, that I felt like I could be more. I was amazed by how many youth came together to take part in the conference & that it was a youth led event! I was able to talk w/ youth my age, make friends, experience my culture & enjoy the speakers & workshops they had! After the conference I knew I had to be apart of NCNAYO so I ran for County Representative & got the position. I was truly happy to be around so many youth & not feel judged or less than. NCNAYO has done so much for me. I was able to become a leader, comfortable in my own skin & my own person. If it wasn’t for NCNAYO I’d probably still be too afraid to say my own name out loud.
-Halona Benjamin (Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina), age 18, is from Fayetteville, North Carolina and is passionate about bettering the lives of future Native Americans.