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ZUNI, NM (June 26, 2024) — The Zuni Youth Enrichment Project announced today that its in- and after-school programs served 563 students during this past school year. The programs were conducted in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Healthy’s Healthy Kids Healthy Communities initiative, Centers for Disease Control’s Tribal Practices for Wellness in Indian Country, Zuni Education and Career Development Center and Zuni Public School District.

In-school programs included a holistic wellness class at Shiwi Ts’ana Elementary School and an elective art class at Zuni Middle School. After-school programs included Rooted in Healthy Traditions at the elementary school during fall semester and RHT at the middle school during spring semester.

At Shiwi Ts’ana Elementary School, 486 students in pre-K through fifth grade participated in the holistic wellness class, which was led by ZYEP Youth Development Leader Rani Yamutewa and made possible with support from the New Mexico Department of Health. The class focused on students’ holistic well-being, giving students opportunities to explore various perspectives on individuality, language, culture, dance and performance.

“I have a passion for wellness,” Yamutewa said. “I want to interact with youth before hardships happen (and) help prepare them so they can tackle whatever might come their way. I teach from the heart, and as I teach them, they’re teaching me.”

ZYEP’s Food Sovereignty team incorporated the State of New Mexico’s Eat Smart Play Hard curriculum into the class, which also used Mangaysha Kallestewa’s and Cyrus Lutse’s RHT in-school curriculum. Children participated in physical activities, learned about healthy nutrition, and engaged in journaling, positive affirmations, self-reflection and group discussion.

In addition, ZYEP offered its RHT after-school program at Shiwi Ts’ana Elementary School from Aug. 29 to Nov. 9. Forty-two children in third through fifth grades participated during the fall semester.

Made possible with support from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), RHT promotes cultural and social connectedness and holistic wellness. It connects Zuni youth to positive, intergenerational mentors and provides opportunities to engage in food sovereignty and nutrition, knowledge sharing, traditional art and physical activity, including basketball, field games and group team-building exercises.

On Sept. 27, Zuni Tribal Prevention Project gave a presentation to RHT participants about bullying. And on Nov. 1, the Shumak’olo:wa Health Center provided information about substance abuse and prevention.

At Zuni Middle School, ZYEP offered an elective class that focuses on building resilience through art. Seventeen students enrolled in the class, which included 2D fine art and mixed media during the first quarter, traditional dance in the second quarter, beading in the third quarter, and traditional dance in the fourth quarter.

Dance students dedicated three days per week to traditional dancing, with one day set aside for art — including beading and watercolor painting — and another for food sovereignty lessons. They were able to demonstrate what they had learned at a November showcase at the Zuni Wellness Center.

“One thing I learned from this class is having confidence in yourself,” said one middle-school dance student, who was among the 89 percent of participants who said they enjoyed learning Zuni dancing. “I look forward to joining future classes.”

ZYEP Arts Assistant Coordinator Kandis Quam and Arts Leader Liam Simplicio led the class, which was made possible with support from the New Mexico Department of Behavioral Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

From Feb. 6 to Apr. 25, sixth- to eighth-graders had their opportunity to take advantage of the RHT after-school program at ZMS, made possible by the CDC and ZECDC. Eighteen students participated during the spring semester, engaging in RHT’s four activity areas: physical activity, knowledge sharing, food sovereignty and nutrition, and traditional art.

“I really enjoyed meeting new people, and I would do this again,” said a sixth-grader, while a seventh-grade participant remarked that the physical activity component was appreciated “because I finally got to move a lot more!”

Physical activities included dodgeball and indoor hockey. In art, students created their own digital designs on iPads, and ZYEP staff printed the designs using Cricut and then ironed them onto T-shirts.

ZYEP’s Food Sovereignty team taught the students to prepare mango salsa that they paired with black bean burrito bowls. They also enjoyed STEM activities, such as building a terrarium with natural materials and recycled plastic jars.

At the end of the program, ZYEP Program Manager Tara Wolfe, Youth Development Coordinator Kiara “Kiki” Zunie and Arts Leader Liam Simplicio took the students to Albuquerque to visit Urban Air, a trampoline theme park, and go out for pizza.

“Due to a train derailment, there was heavy traffic on our way home,” Wolfe said. “It ended up being a neat bonding experience. While we were stuck, we listened to music, shared music, and laughed a lot.”

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 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.