ZUNI, NM (July 11, 2022) — On Monday, July 5, Tahlia Natachu took the reins as executive director of the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project. Our outgoing executive director, Joseph Claunch, will remain involved with ZYEP as a member of our board of directors.

A member of the Puyallup Tribe of Tacoma, Washington, Joe has dedicated nearly 20 years to serving Native American youth as a classroom teacher, athletic coach, and youth program leader. He holds a bachelor’s degree in American Indian Studies from Haskell Indian Nations University, a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon, and a Ph.D. in sport and exercise psychology from the University of Kansas. He joined ZYEP in 2016.

All of us at ZYEP would like to take the opportunity to thank Joe for his service over the last six years. Here are just a few messages from our team:

“We are so grateful for the love, energy, leadership, and dedication that Joe has invested not only in ZYEP, but in our community. His work allowed us to set big goals and chase our dreams. When someone tells you they believe in you, it’s so powerful, and that is what Joe has done for so many of us.

“We want to thank him and his family for spending part of their journey with us. The impact they made will be felt for generations to come. Joe has helped create a good path for us to continue the work and go beyond what any of us could have ever imagined. We are so lucky Joe will still be connected to ZYEP by transitioning to the board of directors. Even that move shows his level of commitment.

“So, on behalf of ZYEP, our community, and myself personally: Elahkwa, Joe, for being a role model and reminding us to lean into our strengths. Many blessings to you and your loved ones. No matter what, you will always be a part of the ZYEP family.” — Tahlia Natachu, executive director

  Joe has helped me grow personally and professionally in ways I never could have imagined. He has consistently opened my mind to new perspectives, and I will forever be grateful. Elahkwa Joe!” — Andrea Pepin, program manager

 “Thank you, Joe, for the opportunity to work alongside you. You have done wonders for the Zuni community! Your hard work and dedication to strengthening positive outcomes for ZYEP and the Zuni community and children through creative programming — and to building strong mentoring relationships and stronger connections to Zuni cultures and language — is evident and surely will impact us for generations to come.

“I can’t express how grateful I am to have had the chance to work together, and I look forward to more future collaborations. Elahkwa! Best regards!”

— Tara Wolfe, youth development coordinator

“‘Leadership is not about positions or titles. It is about one life influencing another.’ Joe Claunch will always be one of the best influential leaders that the Pueblo of Zuni and Zuni youth was blessed to gain. May your life’s next adventure bring you more achievements, blessings, and happiness.”

Kenzi Bowekaty, food sovereignty leader

To learn more about the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project and its programs, and for information about making donations, partnering with ZYEP, and volunteering, call (505) 782-8000 or visit zyep.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest news and events, follow the nonprofit youth organization on Facebook (/zuniyouthenrichmentproject), Instagram (@zuniyouthenrichmentproject), YouTube (/ZuniYouth), and TikTok (/zyep09)

Founded in 2009, the nonprofit Zuni Youth Enrichment Project is dedicated to promoting resilience among Zuni youth so they will grow into strong, healthy adults who are connected with Zuni traditions. ZYEP fulfills its mission by providing positive role models, enriching programs, and nurturing spaces that contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth. ZYEP strives to provide every child with the encouragement and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.