National Indian Youth Leadership Project

The National Indian Youth Leadership Project occupies a partially renovated warehouse building in Gallup, New Mexico. The parking lot is packed with well-used vans and 4x4 vehicles. The building is filled with outdoor programming gear that includes canoes, kayaks, mountain bikes, cross country skis, snowshoes, backpacks, sleeping bags and a few computers in a modest office setting. As a nonprofit, NIYLP is 33 years old. The current staff of 10 is predominantly Native American, from a variety of tribal backgrounds. The Internationally-recognized program grew from a summer leadership camp, first conducted at Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma in 1982, into the first Native American program to be designated as a MODEL Program in the prevention field.

NIYLP’s Founder, McClellan (Mac) Hall, a former teacher and principal of two tribal schools, describes the focus of NIYLP as Positive Youth Development, based on traditional wisdom and values common to Indigenous people across North America. The core of NIYLP programming is outdoor adventure (hiking, backpacking, ropes course, rappelling, rock climbing, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking) etc., reconnecting contemporary Indigenous youth with the Natural World. Service Learning is a cornerstone of NIYLP’s work, with cultural themes and activities blended throughout. The original camp model has evolved into a year-round program, with both in-school and out of school programming, a curriculum, lesson plans and serious evaluation results, from over 25 years of qualitative and quantitative evaluation. Project Venture has been implemented in over 25 states, multiple sites in 8 Canadian provinces, as well as with Native Hawaiian youth.

NIYLP’s approaches to building Resiliency are guided by the wisdom of Native elders and the traditional values that Indigenous cultures share. NIYLP programs offer strength-based positive alternatives to deficit approaches, found in many treatment and school-based prevention programs.

NIYLP AWARDS

1989 NIYLP receives the Indian Education Showcase Award, presented by the US Department of Education

1995 McClellan Hall receives the Kurt Hahn Award, presented by the Association for Experiential Education. The award is given to an individual who best exemplifies the work of Kurt Hahn, the Founder of Outward Bound.

1996 McClellan Hall receives the Spirit of Crazy Horse Award, presented by by Augustana College, Reclaiming Youth and the Black Hills Institute, for »Bringing Courage to Discouraged Youth.

2000 Exemplary Program Award, Project Venture, presented by the State of New Mexico Behavioral Health Services Department and the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (SAMHSA)

2002 Promising Program Award, Project Venture, presented by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (SAMHSA)

2003 Effective Program Award, Project Venture, presented by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (SAMHSA)

2005 Model Program Award, Project Venture, presented by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (SAMHSA)

2006 Exemplary Program for Children of Color, Project Venture, presented by the First Nations Behavioral Health Association

2007 Milestone Program Recognition, presented by the WK Kellogg Foundation, as part of their 75th Anniversary Celebration

2008 Project Venture: Best Practice for American Indian/Alaska Native and Pacific Island Indigenous Youth Recognition, presented by the First Nations Behavioral Health Association

2008 Trail Blazer Award, given to McClellan Hall for his work in establishing the legacy of Service Learning in the US, presented by the National Service Learning Partnership

2008 Founder’s Award, given to McClellan Hall, presented by the National Youth leadership Council on their 25th Anniversary

2010 Alice King New Mexico Public Service Award, given to McClellan Hall

2012 Indian Health Service Director’s Behavioral Health Achievement Award, given to McClellan Hall

2015 Alec Dickson Servant Leader Award, given to McClellan Hall, presented by the National Service Learning Conference