High school seniors get a lot of surprising mail in the spring, usually in the form of college acceptances. But Stanford freshman Dahkota Kicking Bear Brown got something especially surprising: a letter notifying him of his appointment to the the National Advisory Council on Indian Education. At 17, Brown is the youngest person ever to receive a presidential appointment, USA Today reported last week.
“It was absolutely amazing and thinking back on it still leaves me speechless,” Brown said in a USA Today interview.
The Advisory Council studies issues pertaining to Native education and drafts a report to Congress. Brown saw his appointment as an opportunity to expand the role of youth in government. He considered it an opportunity for all youth, not just himself, the young activist told USA Today. A member of the Wilton Rancheria Miwok tribe in California, he has been an activist for Native education since eighth grade.
“I read an article that included various statistics about Native youth — they have the highest dropout rate, the lowest graduation rate, the lowest representation in college, the highest suicide rate. I realized those things were happening in my own community. I wanted to make a difference,” he said.
He founded NERDS (Native Education Raising Dedicated Students) to provide mentoring to fellow Native students. The organization took off through word-of-mouth and is now a national nonprofit boasting ten chapters. Its latest program, “Movin’ It,” seeks to encourage Native youth to lead healthy lifestyles.
Don’t expect Brown’s activism to stop when he gets to Stanford. There, he plans to work with the Native American Culture Center. He’s already familiar with the NACC through his older brother, who graduated this year. After completing his education, Brown hopes to work for his tribe or in politics “so I can bring it back to the community.”
Lead image credit: Matt Wade on Flickr Creative Commons.