A Trailblazing Journey: Gabriella Nakai, a CNAY Champion for Change, Honored at the White House

October 11, 2023 — In a historic celebration of the International Day of the Girl, the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) proudly witnessed 2023 Champion for Change, Gabriella Nakai, take center stage at the White House. The event, thrown by the First Lady, recognized 15 remarkable young women who are at the forefront of driving positive change and shaping a brighter future within their communities across the United States.

Among these outstanding individuals, Gabriella Nakai, a 17-year-old Native youth, stood out as the lone Native American recipient of the inaugural award presented by the First Lady herself. Gabriella, affectionately known as Gabbe, has dedicated her leadership to advancing food security and sustainability, Indigenous sovereignty, and youth advocacy.

Her notable contributions include pushing for efforts in growing sustainable heirloom Native produce, as well as promoting seed saving and propagation. These initiatives have not only made her a beacon of inspiration but have also positioned her as a catalyst for positive change within her community and across the country. 

The journey for Gabbe and her fellow honorees commenced with an evening of bowling at the White House upon their arrival in Washington, DC. The following day unfolded with a unique experience as they joined the First Lady in picking flower bouquets, symbolizing the blossoming potential of these young leaders.

As part of the itinerary, the girls had the privilege of meeting with top White House officials, accomplished women leading in their respective fields. A reception ensued, providing Gabbe with the opportunity to network with women from across the country, solidifying her role as a current leader among her peers.

The overwhelming sense of pride and joy radiating from Team CNAY transcends words. Anthony Tamez, a staffer from CNAY, and Gabbe’s parents were present to witness this truly momentous occasion. The recognition bestowed upon Gabbe serves as a profound symbol, encapsulating not only her individual accomplishments but also the collective resilience, dedication, and advocacy championed by the entire CNAY family.

In a parallel announcement, the Biden-Harris Administration unveiled a series of groundbreaking actions, furthering their commitment to investing in young people and expanding opportunities for women and girls both domestically and internationally. Initiatives such as the launch of the American Climate Corps and efforts to accelerate progress in closing the gender digital divide underscored the administration’s dedication to fostering positive change.

Gabriella Nakai’s journey from a passionate advocate for Indigenous causes to a recognized leader at the White House is a testament to the power of youth advocacy and the potential for positive change. As she continues to inspire those around her, Gabbe stands as a beacon of hope for a brighter future, not only for Native American communities but for girls and women everywhere.