Q & A with 2019 Champion for Change, Charitie Ropati
Charitie is 17 years old. She is from Anchorage, Alaska and is a proud member of the Native Village of Kongiganak. Charitie is currently a senior attending Service High School in Anchorage.
What issues affecting Native youth are you passionate about?
The fact that Indigenous students continue to have some of the lowest graduation rates and highest dropout rates of any other racial group demographically is not only saddening but is a legitimate crisis. In order to fully counteract this issue, a course curriculum that is Native centric and a policy that would allow youth to wear their regalia during graduation can potentially solve this issue. More native youth should and need to be graduating high school.
What does being a 2019 Champion for Change mean to you?
Being a Champion is more than the title or recognition, but it is empowering and has created a platform for my initiative to expand and to be taken as credible by western academia. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and will allow me to network with other people and organizations so that I can create a larger influence. Being a Champion recognizes the work I have done but also creates a pathway for other Alaska Native youth to start their own initiatives on whatever issues they find important.
What are you most excited about for Champions for Change Week?
I’m most excited about the people I’ll meet while in D.C. To be exposed to influential and powerful Native leaders is very valuable and I am honored tobe in such a position to hear the advice given. Also, having the opportunity to meet with my state representatives is amazing because it will allow me time to talk about my initiatives and even apply them on a state level. To have this type of communication and exposure is very exciting and I am grateful to have such an opportunity.
If you had to tell Native youth one thing, what would it be?
You are capable. This is a message I haven’t always heard in western education. When your native learning in a system that has historically worked to systematically “kill the Indian, and save the man,” more native youth need to hear the message that they are capable beyond their own beliefs. You are capable to pursue higher education despite the lack of representation because there are others who look up to you. You are a role model, even if you aren’t fully aware of that fact.
What is a fun fact about you or your community?
I identify as Mexican, Samoan, and Yup’ik. My multi ethnicity is very important to me and I am very attuned to all aspects of my cultural heritage. I am blessed to be exposed to all parts of my heritage.
From Feb. 4th to Feb. 8th, the Center for Native American Youth will be highlighting the stories of our 2019 Champions for Change. Champions for Change serve as representatives of the next generations of leaders in Indian Country.
Join Charitie and the other 2019 Champions for Change for a public event and discussion at the Aspen Institute on Tuesday Feb. 12th. Following the panel discussion with the Champions for Change, the Center for Native American Youth will hold its annual anniversary reception at the Capitol Hilton hotel from 5-7pm.
RSVP for the panel discussion with the Champions for Change here.
RSVP for the CNAY Anniversary Reception here.