Many of the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project’s youth participants have been enjoying our programs and activities for years. One of those participants is 16-year-old Aidan Banteah-Yuselew.

Now a junior at Middle College High School, Aidan started coming to ZYEP as a child. He says he discovered ZYEP when he attended our annual Summer Camp; founded in 2009, we designed this camp to offer a positive, healthy alternative to a typical summer in rural Zuni Pueblo.

“That’s where it all started,” Aidan recalls. “It made me learn about being more friendly and social to people. I liked the activities, and having so much fun engaging with other kids my age.”

After camp, Aidan decided to stay involved with ZYEP. He has been involved with the Delap’na:we Oral History Theater Project (Delap’na:we means “traditional stories” in Zuni) since its inception, and he currently serves as a junior assistant for the project.

“Aidan has a speaking role in the production, but he also joins our leader meetings where he provides input on how the project should go,” says Tahlia Natachu, ZYEP’s youth development coordinator. “He helps facilitate team building activities for the larger group and helps other participants with their lines. He has shown so much growth in his leadership skills, so we want to give him opportunities to keep practicing that. He is amazing!”

“Team-building activities are such a delight,” Aidan acknowledges. “Everyone has a part during the activity, and everyone works as a team… I’ve learned to help others when needed, and I’ve learned that I have the ability to be selfless.”

Those lessons have had a lasting impact — in terms of how he views Zuni Pueblo and his own role in the community.

“The thing I love most about my community is how there are many people who are worth helping and caring for,” Aidan explains. “The joy that you give to others will be given back to you. I’ve learned that through myself, and by helping others.”

When he’s not participating in ZYEP activities, Aidan says he likes to ride his bike and make beaded jewelry. He isn’t quite sure yet what he might like to do after high school, but he does have a few ideas.

“In my mindset, I would love to make jewelry and sell it for profit,” he says. “I also would travel, and explore new things outside my community.”