ZUNI, NM (June 23, 2022) — The Zuni Youth Enrichment Project announced today that Tahlia Natachu will be the nonprofit organization’s new executive director, effective July 5. Natachu previously served as youth development coordinator and director of development.
“We feel so blessed that Tahlia Natachu will be our new executive director,” said Joe Claunch, ZYEP’s outgoing executive director. “From the beginning, it was evident we had a leader in Tahlia. We saw her potential to grow, and that’s exactly what she has done. What might take others 10 years, she did in three. Along the way, she earned the respect and appreciation of staff, parents, funders, and community.”
In its strategic plan, one of ZYEP’s critical objectives is to cultivate Zuni leadership. Natachu’s appointment is an important step toward achieving this long-term vision, as she will be the youth project’s first Zuni executive director.
“When I first started working for ZYEP in 2016, we were a team of four, and only one staff member was Zuni,” said Claunch, who is a member of the Puyallup Tribe of Tacoma, Washington. “Today, we are a team of 19, and 15 are Zuni. We have been intentional about recruiting Zuni’s best for our open positions, and we invest in their professional development so they can lead the organization into the future.
“Tahlia has been with the organization from its humble beginnings, and her story of working as a Summer Camp counselor, going to college to become a teacher, and returning home to serve Zuni youth is the ultimate fulfillment of ZYEP’s vision,” he added.
Natachu’s history with ZYEP goes back to 2009, her sophomore year at Zuni High School. An active participant in her school’s basketball, volleyball, and track programs, she was invited to work as a counselor during the youth project’s inaugural Summer Camp.
“I worked with ZYEP for three years while I was in high school, and then I went off to college,” Natachu said. “I felt it was my responsibility to get an education and come right back.”
After graduating from Zuni High School in 2012, Natachu went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Western Washington University in Bellingham, and a Master of Arts degree in education from Portland State University in Oregon. She stayed connected to Zuni through ZYEP, working at the youth project during summers and breaks.
For two years, Natachu worked as a 7th grade language arts teacher with Zuni Public School District. Then Claunch reached out with an opportunity for her to join ZYEP full time.
“ZYEP has always had such a special place in my heart,” Natachu reflected. “I loved the classroom, but I’d learned that our kids need so much love and support in other areas. If their fundamental needs aren’t met, then school will never be a priority. But if you help develop resilient, healthy youth, then they will do well in the classroom.
“My sense of purpose has never been stronger,” she continued. “ZYEP helped build me up, and it’s taken me to places I never could have imagined. My campers when I was a counselor are now counselors themselves, and many of the old counselors are now ZYEP employees. It’s definitely circular, and intuitively, we know that’s always our goal. For all of us, and all our partners, our kids are at the center of everything we do.”
When Natachu takes on the executive director’s role on July 5, Claunch will shift gears and move to ZYEP’s Board of Directors.
“This is part of my own leadership journey,” he said. “Zuni leadership is vital to ZYEP’s well-being and long-term sustainability. Along with the rest of our board, I’m looking forward to supporting Tahlia and our team as they move forward.”
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), and YouTube (/ZuniYouth).
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.