According to MENTOR, a national non-profit that studies the effect of mentoring on (and encourages mentoring to) at-risk youth, 1 in 3 children will grow up without a mentor. However, on a reservation, the number of youth with a steady, loving adult influence decreases far below national standards.
Think about what your life would have been like without the important role models who helped to shape you to be the person you are now. It's often hard to imagine life on the reservation, without leaders to show you the way or parents to rely upon, but it wasn't always that way for American Indians and Alaska Natives. They were once a people who held sacred the ties of family and the wisdom of their elders.
However, now, without mentors or reliable adults, the statistics are dismal: lower graduation rates, higher teenage pregnancy, higher drug abuse. For those that do succeed and enroll in college, few finish their degree, and those that do have usually found the support of caring and attentive adults on campus - a mentor.
Many of the students that come to the Haskell Indian Nations University come from this exact situation, so Will and Patricia Main, LIM staff in charge of the Haskell LIGHT Campus Ministry, step in as the caring adults to these students (students like Matthew), teaching both the loving grace of Jesus, as well as His leadership qualities.
"So many of these students never had anyone to turn to," explains Robin Santos (Tohono O'odham), staff at the LIGHT House, "so being ready to help is really crucial to their future success."
At the Haskell LIGHT House, students get a mentor and a Savior
Throughout their time at Haskell, students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of leadership programming, but only the LIGHT House shows leadership in a Christian light.
Jesus was the ultimate leader, after all. He was humble and obedient to God's Will. He knew the importance of teams and relationships. He put other people first and loved to build them up to reach their full, God-given potential. Most importantly, He loved God, and He loved people.
What better teacher and mentor is there?
It's all about love
"You guys just love everyone," one student tells Will (Dakota Sioux), and his wife, Patricia (Cree). And they do. Haskell LIGHT is all about the love. The love of Jesus and the love for each other, and part of the way they show their love is by raising up leaders within the native population.
At the LIGHT House, they call it "Champions in Training."
The latest installment in the series drew from John Maxwell's leadership concepts and spoke of raising your leadership ability and finding mentors in other leaders.
"My biggest takeaway," one student reflected, "was the realization that if I surround myself with people who have little leadership ability, I am stunting my own growth. And if I'm stunting my own growth, I can't help others to succeed. It's like the Bible says, 'Iron sharpens iron.' To make the change I hope to see on my home reservation, I need to be ready to build other leaders, because I can't do it all by myself. Luckily, I have God on my side!"
This concept hit home with many students who came from poverty-stricken communities. When everyone feels hopeless, it's hard to build a community with a future, but as the strong grow, they can lift the others with them.
Making the Strong Stronger
"By giving people the tools they need, presented with a Christian worldview, and empowering them to act out in faith, we can create a generation of native leaders that can make a difference in their own native communities. And whether they go back home to a reservation or to an urban setting, we now have a group of warriors ready to fight for their people and for the future generations. At the LIGHT House, we try to teach and lead by example, Christ's example. That's all we can do," states Patricia.