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Tribal youth at peace with being showcased as a good role model

Joelle Peters

8/2/2001 12:00:00 AM

Saginaw Chippewa Tribal member Riki Durfee is pictured in front of a Mt. Pleasant Public School's billboard showcasing students for their peace-making efforts. "I try to avoid violence and help other people if they don't like somebody," explained Durfee. "Just be nice. Even if you don't like somebody, that's the polite thing to do." In January, about 150 students in kindergarten through 12th grade were given the award in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. The students were nominated by their peers, school staff and parents. The May billboard was part of a 12-month commitment the school system has made to showcase students who have gone above and beyond to be good role models.

Saginaw Chippewa youth participating in an annual summer program are gaining knowledge of how various departments carry out their daily duties.

"I enjoy working with the kids in the Niibing Program," stated third-year summer youth worker Riki Durfee. "I also like the Summer Youth Worker Program."

Durfee has worked in the Tribal Education Department for the past three years.

"Riki is an enjoyable person to work with," stated John Johnson, summer youth program coordinator. "I think that she has found her calling, working with the children and education."

The youth worker is 17-years-old and will be attending Oasis High School in the fall as a junior. Durfee stated that she has been working hard to graduate by June of 2002. She has also stated that she would like to attend college out of state after graduation, but is still deciding where.

The teen has won many awards for her community participation and academic skills. The most recent of her awards was given to her by the Mt. Pleasant Public School Board for outstanding achievements in peacemaking.

"I am very proud of what my daughter has achieved," said her mother Sue Durfee, a District 1 Tribal Council representative and chaplain. "Any child that accomplishes something should be rewarded."

Durfee lives at home with her parents Sue and William Durfee as well as her aunt Ruth Moses.

The youth worker is planning on running for Junior Miss Saginaw Ojibwe Princess at the 17th Annual Little Elk's Retreat Powwow set for Aug. 3-5.

"I am going to do my best," said Durfee. "If I am presented with this title, I will work hard to represent my Tribe."

Durfee stated that she enjoys being a role model for her younger peers. She has also stated that she would like to work in the Summer Youth Program next year.

There are five youth workers that have been in the program for three years, including Durfee, Matthew "Cubby" Sprague, Kevin Skutt, Nick Mena and Sam Jackson.

Sprague, Skutt and Jackson have been profiled in previous issues of the Tribal Observer and Mena will be featured in the Aug. 16 edition.

Through the program, teens can apply for various positions throughout the Tribal departments and programs.

The youth workers are offered a chance to explore how the Tribe operates. When they apply for a summer youth worker position, they are given an interview. During the duration of the interview, they are able to request a position. Being placed in the position that the youth has requested depends on the experience that the youth has in that position and how many other youth have requested the same position.

(Editor's note: Joelle Peters is part of the Saginaw Chippewa Summer Youth Program. This is her second year working as a member of the Tribal Observer staff. She is 15-years-old and is going into the 11th grade. Joelle is interested in possibly pursuing a career in journalism. Her parents are Theresa and Darryl Jackson.)