Finding a Connection, Purpose and Meaning to Inspire Others
The Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS) serves as a catalyst for discourse. Since 1997, the institute has expanded to 16 leadership development programs, guided by mentorship, community service, public policy and critical thinking. Through integration of Indigenous cultural philosophies, these programs are designed to become assets for tribal communities. One example of this is the Brave Girls program.
Grounded in the philosophy of “giving back,” Brave Girls helps young Native women expand self-knowledge, develop a positive self-identity and healthy lifestyle practices, and develop the capacity to think critically about issues affecting their communities. Employing the Leadership Institute’s model, they develop a consciousness of community issues from a female perspective. They network with professional women within communities, develop public speaking skills and—with partners and guest mentors—work to create an intergenerational mentorship system.
Because the SFIS represents New Mexico’s 22 tribes, Brave Girls can have statewide impact. The program is developing a Girls Resource Center and Girls Studies Department. One of the main goals is to create a program to be shared with tribal schools.
Brave Girls strives to identify what each young woman’s contribution to her community can be. One of the ways of doing this is by convening think tanks specifically for Pueblo women. The theme of these institutes is The Power of Pueblo Women. This first-of-its-kind initiative is a series, which will lead to a Women’s Convocation that will allow generations of Pueblo women to have open and honest discussions regarding the changing roles of women within their communities.
The Leadership Institute sees Brave Girls as not only an investment in young Native women but as a crucial investment in the health, well-being and survival of children, families and communities. Creating a conscious understanding of relevant issues and the way external forces continue to impact community institutions is the ultimate goal as Brave Girls help empower tribal community members. The Leadership Institute at the SFIS knows that skills and courage are what it takes to give back and build strong communities.
Darlene Coriz is the creator and founder of Brave Girls. www.lisfis.org