|At RML’s recent Native Youth Academy, youngsters were able to dissect a fetal pig (l) while parents and clan leaders (r) attended a listening session with NIH leaders.
The Rocky Mountain Laboratories recently hosted the annual Native Youth Academy, a cooperative initiative of the Billings area Indian Health Service with the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council; it is designed to promote wellness
among at-risk youth.
Fifty-six Native American youth ranging from age 11 to 14 attended the 5-day academy. The Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management coordinated
a collaboration of four institutes—NIDDK, NIDA, NIAID and NIGMS—that presented a day of science-emphasis programs to participants. OEODM and RML staff organized workshops for youth and conducted mutual “listening sessions”
Native Americans are underrepresented in the youth-to-maturity pipeline of science,
technology, engineering and math (STEM)-trained practitioners. NIH’s partnership with NYA is designed to increase opportunities to fill the pipeline as more young Native Americans enroll as science majors in college.
The youngsters observed a fetal pig dissection, learned about the effects of substance
abuse and diabetes and enjoyed a whimsical “mystery” about medical forensics. Meanwhile, their parents and clan leaders participated in listening sessions and panel discussions with NIH leaders regarding cooperative efforts to promote wellness for the next generation of Native Americans across Montana and Wyoming.
Dr. Bruce Fuchs, director of NIH’s Office of Science Education, explained OSE’s K-12 curriculum in order to motivate parents to support their children who aspire in STEM subjects. NIAID’s Dr. Marshall Bloom, Dr. Wendy Fibison and Toby Bowland pointed out training opportunities for budding scientists at both RML and Bethesda. NIDA Special Population Office director Dr. Lula Beatty addressed the serious addiction and substance abuse trends in Native American communities. Dr. Sandy Garfield, who directs NIDDK’s Diabetes Science Education
in Tribal Schools program, underscored the urgency of training Native Americans to manage their special health risks. Dr. Shawn Drew explained how the NIGMS Division of Minority Opportunities in Research program targets Native American students with incentives so they will apply for training and career opportunities in research.
The faces of NYA participants lit up when their leaders asked them what the academy meant to them this summer. One spoke for many when she said, “All of the ideas and labs that NIH staff workers presented helped me to feel smarter…in the future, I would like to work there.” Another youngster declared, “I have to say, this saved my life.”