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Youth Leadership Conference: Preparing youth for inheritance of Red Lake community

Motivational speaker Chance Rush speaks to area students on the importance of sharing their own gifts and talents with others at the fifth annual Red Lake Youth Leadership Conference held April 6-8 at Red Lake High School. Pioneer Photo/Anne Williams

Don't look back. No chances. Don't settle. Win.

As an American Indian growing up in Oklahoma, Chance Rush, unable to read by eighth grade, was tired of being pushed through the school system.

But his luck changed when his natural athletic ability got noticed by members of the high school track team. He ran, and people noticed. He gained confidence and taught himself to read. After beating several long-distance high school records, Rush went on to compete in collegiate athletics and earned a bachelor's degree.

Rush wrote four statements to live by, as listed above. He uses the same guidelines today to motivate Indian youth around the country as a motivational speaker.

Rush, one of several speakers at the fifth annual Red Lake Youth Leadership Conference, encouraged area students to follow their passions, pursue education and motivate others to do the same.

"This is your community, your home, your story," Rush said. "Look at your actions. Share your talents with others. Go beyond and be uncommon."

This year's conference, held April 6-8 at Red Lake High School, is themed, "The Nation's youth - Red Lake's future."

According to Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd "Buck" Jourdain, the conference is intended to prepare youth for future leadership roles within the Red Lake community and beyond.

When the Red Lake Nations Youth Council was formed in 2004 to give youth a voice in the community, it sought ways to teach leadership skills to youth.

The conference invites national and local speakers to inspire students to succeed. The first Youth Leadership Conference was in 2005, the same year as the Red Lake School shooting tragedy.

"It's not related," Jourdain said. "We're able to recognize the youth and give them exposure to positive role models. It's about celebrating youth achievements."

Red Lake is experiencing in influx of youth - a larger generation of young people, Jourdain said.

"We are seeing more and more young people," Jourdain said. "Elders who once ran the tribal councils, the businesses and taught our education are moving on."

The annual conference is planned and sponsored by several key drug-free organizations, including the Red Lake School District, Red Lake Chemical Health Programs, Red Lake Youth Council and the Tribal Council. Jourdain said conference planners wanted this year's conference to focus on the young while still recognizing the accomplishments of the old.

"In years past, not a lot of attention was paid to youth on our reservation," Jourdain said. "But it's important to us. We need to guide them in the right direction. Here everything is run by the Red Lake Band. It will be passed down to them."

Conference workshops and presentations are held throughout the week. Also included in the schedule is a highly anticipated youth basketball tournament, entertainment, banquet, door prizes and an Honor the Youth Pow-wow.

"Youth look forward to gathering each year for the conference," Jourdain said. "It's about celebrating youth. We want to push our youth to next level and give them confidence and pride."