Youth Leading Sustainability Efforts in Jemez Pueblo Invited to the White House

By Anthony Fleg, Native Health Initiative

Emmet stands with current Walatowa Governor Michael Toledo in Washington D.C.

Service work often rewards with intangible benefits: meeting great people, satisfaction in knowing that you are working for a better world.

However, Emmet Yepa, a local youth leader received a very tangible reward for his service last week when he was invited to meet President Obama at the White House because of the work he has done to protect Mother Earth.

Emmet, who comes from the Walatowa (Jemez) Pueblo, was one of eleven American Indian youth nationwide to be selected by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for his work to create a recycling program in the Walatowa Pueblo. The program asked youth to tell the President about their service and leadership work they are doing in their communities.

“I am really honored to be accepted for this trip, and want to learn from this so that I can bring information back to our youth in New Mexico,” said Emmet as he headed to the nation’s capitol. He talked about the other founding members – Tianie and Lindsay Toya and Mark Panana – of the Walatowa Green Stars, his family, and the Walatowa community who he would be representing in his trip.

The Champions of Change ceremony took place December 1st at the White House, and each youth was given a chance to speak about the work they are doing. (click here to see video of the event). The following day, the eleven youth attended the Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of the Interior, meeting with Obama privately before he spoke to the assembled leaders.


“He is such an amazing, powerful and humble individual,” commented Emmet from that meeting.

In fact, Emmet says that the most powerful part of the trip for him was the Tribal Nations Conference. “It was a great feeling being with the leaders of the Indigenous Nations of this country…It made me think that I want to have the Green Stars further into the process of getting a recycling center. I want to be able to say that I accomplished more than I expected before I head off to college, for our Pueblo and for Mother Earth.”

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