Summer Montileaux and Journey Mani Wanji Zephier
Summer Montileaux, right, and Journey Mani Wanji Zephier, left, have successfully raised enough funds to attend the first White House Tribal Youth Summit July 9.

Two Native Youth Leaders Raise Funds to Visit the White House

Vincent Schilling

Two Native Youth who have had their hearts set on going to this year’s White House Tribal Youth Summit, and Summer Montileaux, Lakota Sioux, and Journey Mani Wanji Zephier, Ihanktonwan Dakota/Yankton Sioux, have raised the necessary funds to do it. With the help of fundraising websites and social media Montileaux and Zephier raised a combined total of $7,202 to cover their travel costs. Not only did the youth cover their costs, Montileaux exceeded her goal of $2,477 by $80 and Zephier raised $4,645, $845 over a $3,800 fundraising goal.

Both Montileaux and Zephier have been selected to represent their fellow youth as a young Native leader on July 9.

Maggie Dunne, founder of Lakota Children’s Enrichment—a nonprofit that empowers youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation—says she has been inspired by Montileaux and believes she will be a wonderful representative to visit Washington. “Summer is a wonderful young person with a 4.0 GPA, who works hard for her fellow youth. She is a great representation of what our youth can achieve.”

Montileaux is a high school junior, a co-founding member of LCE’s Youth Advisory Board, and she assists in several programs addressing issues of health, wellness, food shortages and nutrition.

She used CrowdRise to fundraise and said, “I am 15 years old and from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. I have been invited to represent the Oglala Lakota Tribe at the first ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering in July 2015. My long-term goal is to become a pediatrician and to return to Pine Ridge to help my community.”

Montileaux told ICTMN that this would be a trip never to forget. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and I am so excited! Being a part of this historic event is important to me because I want to make a positive impact on my reservation.”

Zephier, 15, used GoFundMe to raise money and said: “I have been honored as a Native Youth Leader, and invited to President Obama’s White House Native Youth Leader gathering in Washington, D.C.! This is a very special honor, and I am humbled and excited for the opportunity to represent the 7th Generation.

“My inspiration comes from my family and Lakota culture. My Lakota values of respect, wisdom, generosity and bravery keep me focused on making positive choices for my future. My sisters are my inspiration too... I want them to see that they can do whatever they want in life,” wrote Zephier.

Follow correspondent Vincent Schilling on Twitter.

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