Connecting and Convening in New Places: OYUnited attends Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF) Fall Convening

By Shaquana Boykin, OYUnited-SparkAction Digital Engagement Fellow


In November, OYUnited joined the Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF) Fall Convening in Arizona and New Mexico.

The OYF convening had several goals, including creating an environment for Place Based Learning for participants. This blog will discuss the Place Based Learning from The Hopi Tribe & Pueblo of Jemez Tribe during site visits designed to connect with and learn from several Native, Indigenous, and Tribal communities within the OYF network.

Loading luggage on bus to visit Hopi Tribe


The Hopi Tribe Visit was an experience in itself! It was powerful to hear from youth about the issues and struggles they go through, discuss bridging the generational gap and finding opportunities and pathways for success. We were fortunate to meet young people who were part of the Youth Conservation Programs who told us what they learned and why they enjoyed this program. The Youth Conservation Program employs youth and provides them with hands-on skills, including fencing, filling sandbags, and cutting wood to deliver to the tribes for heating their homes. The Hopi tribe also feed us traditional dishes of mutton (sheep) with noodles and corn, corn and bean soup, and bread in two types: the bread roll I am accustomed to and Piki Bread (picture below).

Youth Conservation Program

Piki Bread








Corn & bean soup, pika bread, bread roll and cookie

Corn & mutten soup











OYF convening would not be complete without nature walks, talks, biking and getting physical. Enjoy Photos from Shaquana Boykin, Jamiel Alexander of Aspen Community Solutions & OYU member & Andrea Wagner of Fresh Tracks




Feast Day

Feast Day was the last day of our Aspen Convening Site Visit. We arrived at the Jemez Pueblo Tribe after a bus drive from Flagstaff, Arizona to New Mexico. The Pueblo of Jemez is a federally recognized tribe located in north-central New Mexico, approximately 50 miles northwest of Albuquerque. We are one of the remaining 19 pueblos of New Mexico, encompassing over 89,000 acres of land and home to over 3,400 tribal members.


Weeks before this visit, Juan Martinez, Senior Program Manager for Fresh Tracks with The Aspen Forum For Community Solutions, explained that we will practice reciprocity – an ancestral and indigenous value. Juan asked us to consider bringing/creating 3-4 items to give to our community host for feast day. He explained that it did not need to be bought, it can be as simple as a few written words, song, art, or an item that represents you and/or your community. (He also told us we will not be treated any differently if we cannot bring something. Before we got off the bus we were given a paper with the information to contact and walk to the Jemez Family Home to eat. We were also told the rules again:no audio, no recording, no pictures without asking the family first. 


I’m a 90s baby so you know I was nervous! We use our phones for everything, even to check time, so I was worried I might pull my phone out and break the rule! But I quickly learned that if you do break the rules the Jemez Pueblo Tribe can take your phone and not give back. Safe to say I did not touch my phone.  


As we walked from the bus to the entrance of the tribe we were welcomed with a dance. This was a part of the celebration of The Feast Day, which included elders and youth that were able to dance. My group and I watched the dance for a few minutes and then walked to the market and ended at the family home to eat. It was a feast indeed, including rice, chicken, corn, yams, soup, and desserts.All I can say is it was delicious! After the feast, l had to walk back to give The Shendo Family my gift – a circle I crocheted. To my surprise, Jacquelyn, the daughter, asked, “Can I take a picture & your number to learn crochet? I weave, but this is beautiful”.  Who knew crochet circles would bring us together! Jacquelyn recently texted me and we are going to video chat and I will teach her how to crochet. 


Overall the Convening was a powerful experience, and I’m excited to have made a new friend to share crocheting with!

A passionate advocate and youth organizer, Shaquana Boykin works closely with the SparkAction team to enhance Opportunity Youth United’s digital presence by producing content, coordinating social media, and launching creative events and activations.

If Not Us, Then Who? OYUnited joined the ND4Y Week of Action in DC

By Shaquana Boykin, OYUnited-SparkAction Digital Engagement Fellow


A New Deal for Youth (ND4Y) is a youth-led, youth-centered effort advocating for the creation of new systems, policies, investments, and structures that reimagine life for young people in America. New Deal for Youth’s Changemakers developed a policy agenda that includes several issue areas: Economic Justice and Opportunity Justice, Healing and Wellbeing, Justice and Safe Communities, Environmental Justice, Immigration Justice, and Democracy and Civil Engagement.


As a Change Partner of ND4Y, OYUnited joined the New Deal for Youth Week of Action from October 6th – 9th in Washington DC. This Week of Action brought together organizational partners like OYUnited and the ND4Y Changemakers, a cohort of young leaders between the ages of 15 and 32 from across the country. These young leaders are advocates and organizers who work across a range of issues facing their communities. 


Young leaders from across the country represented OYUnited at this Week of Action, including Kimberly Pham, our Engagement Coordinator, Makayla McDonald, one of our current Fellows, and myself (Shaquana Boykin) as our Digital Engagement Fellow.


Thursday, October 6, 2022 – Legislative Advocacy

Photo Credit :Gerod Blue

Photo Credit: Shanice Tuner


During the Week of Action we met with policymakers to raise awareness of ND4Y’s policy agenda, grow champions, and demonstrate the power of young people. I was part of a group that included two New Deal for Youth Changemakers, Cody and Alexis, along with Gerod Blue, Senior Policy Manager at the Forum for Youth Investment. We met with a staffer for California Representative Sara Jacobs, Arion Laws, who was open to listening to our concerns and responded positively to our request for Representative Jacobs to be our champion for New Deal for Youth Demands. The meeting went well, and it was an exciting opportunity to uplift our priorities and ensure Members of Congress are committed to issues impacting Opportunity Youth.


Friday, October 7, 2022 – Summit for Administrative Advocacy

Photo Credit: Shaquana Boykin

Photo Credit: Shaquana Boykin


The next day, the New Deal for Youth held a Summit for Administrative Advocacy at Southwest Library in Washington, DC. The Summit provided space for sharing our priorities with members of the Biden-Harris Administration and learning how the Biden-Harris Administration can positively impact the future of young people. Watch the full Summit here.   


Saturday, October 8, 2022 – Public Awareness / Mural Painting & Block Party


Photo Credit :Jameil Alexander

Photo Credit :Shanice Turner









We also engaged in activities together to build community among the Changemakers and Change Partners, including painting a mural to give back locally. The mural painting was led by OYUnited co-founder and former member of OYUnited’s National Council of Young Leaders, Francisco Garcia


Overall, the ND4Y Week of Action was an impactful way to build community while raising awareness about our policy platform. OYUnited is proud to be a Change Partner of the ND4Y movement, and we’re excited to continue working as part of this coalition to transform current systems to better support young people and Opportunity Youth.


A passionate advocate and youth organizer, Shaquana Boykin works closely with the SparkAction team to enhance Opportunity Youth United’s digital presence by producing content, coordinating social media, and launching creative events and activations.

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