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Transformative Media Workshop Empowers Native Students

By Kyler Edsitty

Flagstaff, AZ – June 27, 2023 – Throughout Indian Country, the rights of Indigenous people have long been jeopardized, resulting in a historical silencing of Native voices. Recognizing the need for Indigenous journalists who can advocate for truth and justice, the Indigenous Youth Media Workshop was created over a decade ago to foster broadcast literacy and journalism skills among Native American Arizona high school students. Held on the Northern Arizona University (NAU) Flagstaff campus, the Workshop brought together twenty-five aspiring young storytellers for an immersive week-long experience.

This year's workshop, from June 25 to July 1, 2023, gave students a unique opportunity to develop skills in the School of Communication's Media Innovation Center newsroom and state-of-the-art television studio. The students engaged in various activities, gaining hands-on experience to develop essential broadcast media and journalism skills. Noteworthy highlights include firsthand exposure to college life, utilizing professional-grade equipment, producing captivating multimedia news stories, and exploring potential media careers.

The core mission of the Indigenous Youth Media Workshop is to empower students to collaborate and share the stories that hold significance for them and their communities. The workshop has inspired past students to pursue higher education opportunities and become a successful catalyst for positive change within their communities by equipping them with the necessary tools and skills.

As part of this initiative, Native Public Media (NPM), a nonprofit organization committed to promoting the self-determination of Indigenous people through media access, storytelling, and ownership, provides First Amendment training and education. The First Amendment Protectors curriculum offers a comprehensive understanding of the First Amendment, its relevance to journalism, and the importance of safeguarding those rights.

The seven-lesson curriculum covers all five freedoms granted within the forty-five words of the First Amendment, explicitly emphasizing freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Students explore free expression, protected speech, unprotected speech, and censorship through engaging in discussions and activities. Students understand how the First Amendment applies to them and gain the skills to utilize it effectively.

“We are immensely proud of the Indigenous Youth Media Workshop we helped to co-found and its profound impact on empowering Native American high school students. Through this transformative program, we are fostering broadcast media literacy, journalism skills, and the protection of First Amendment rights. By amplifying Indigenous voices and stories, we are nurturing a new generation of Indigenous media makers who will drive positive change in the industry, their communities, and beyond," stated Loris Taylor, President and CEO of Native Public Media, and the Workshop’s graduation keynote.

The response from students to the First Amendment Protectors curriculum and the overall workshop experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Combining immersive storytelling, media literacy, and the knowledge and protection of their rights has impacted the students.

“The First Amendment Protectors presentation was a better explanation than the one I got from high school. It was clearer how it applied to journalism,” said Shanelle Smiley, a student from Salina, Arizona. “The workshop has been a great learning experience. Some parts of producing stories during the workshop were challenging, but it was fun to see the final product.”


About the Indigenous Youth Media Workshop: The Workshop is a transformative program dedicated to fostering media literacy and broadcast journalism skills among Arizona Native American high school students. Held annually at Northern Arizona University, the workshop brings together aspiring young storytellers from across Indian Country for a week-long immersive experience.

About Native Public Media: NPM is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the self-determination of Indigenous people through media access, storytelling, and ownership. A co-founder of the Indigenous Youth Media Workshop, NPM provides training and education, including the First Amendment Protectors curriculum. The OneAZ Credit Union awarded a $5,000 Community Impact Grant to NPM for its work with youth.


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