JANUARY 21, 2009

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USAO Student Reaching Out to Anadarko Youth

Photo of USAO student Maya Torralba.
Maya Torralba, a senior political science major at USAO, is working to establish a program focused on cultural pride and self-esteem building for Native American girls in Anadarko. The ladies will invest in the community with community projects and investing in the organization. “What I’m focusing on is building community esteem. I want to work with girls on their self-esteem and how that relates to building community esteem,” Torralba said.

At a time in her college career when most students worry about grades, exams and tuition costs, Maya Torralba, a senior political science major at USAO, has taken on the challenge of empowering the lives of young women in her hometown of Anadarko.

Torralba is finishing a 2008 fellowship with Young People For, which has served as a springboard for her work with young Native American women in Anadarko. Her goal is to establish a program focused on cultural pride and self-esteem building for Native American girls. She was the only fellow selected from Oklahoma in 2008. A total of 201 fellows were chosen representing 14 states.

“My experience with Young People For has taught me that today’s ‘progressive values’ are in actuality traditional Native values. It has also taught me that it’s okay to have progressive values and that it’s okay to promote them in mainstream society. My experience has provided me with mentorship, seed money to begin the project and confidence to create a plan and implement it.”

The Young People For fellowship is a leadership development program focusing on identifying, engaging and empowering young progressive leaders. The one-year fellowship equips college students with the skills and resources necessary to create lasting change on their campuses and in their communities. As part of the fellowship, participants create a blueprint outlining their goals for the fellowship. Torralba outline the Anadarko project in her blueprint.

The Community Esteem Project targets Native American girls ages 12-18. “What I’m focusing on is building community esteem. I want to work with girls on their self-esteem and how that relates to building community esteem.

Torralba says that there are many root causes for the problems that Native American girls face. “There are a number of factors. There are historical factors – loss of culture through assimilation and government policy that was geared toward assimilating Native Americans into a culture they weren’t used to.

“The result of that was a loss of culture and the question, ‘where do these girls fit into society?’ If they are not assimilated into mainstream culture, they gravitate toward bad elements – gang activity, substance abuse or domestic violence. They feel like they don’t fit into society. But with this curriculum we’re trying to show them that they do fit in because they make their own spot in society. They don’t have to ‘fit’ anywhere. They make their own spot by going back to their traditions.”

Torralba has three main goals for the program outlined in her blueprint – establish a program focused on cultural pride and self-esteem building for Native American girls in Anadarko, ensure sustainabilty for the program and have the girls personally invest themselves into the town of Anadarko. The ladies will invest in the community with community projects and investing in the organization.

Torralba is an enrolled member of the Kiowa Tribe and is also of Comanche and Wichita descent. She works for the Anadarko Indian Education Program.l.