Midwest Training at Dunes Learning Center: Day 2


Cultural sharing. Leadership development. Outdoor exploration. This is what every great Fresh Tracks day is made of. Saturday August 10 - the second day of the Midwest Training at Dunes Learning Center in Indiana - was no exception.

When you leave here don’t let the movement stop. We need to better our families and do right by our people.
— Nikki Pitre, Center for Native American Youth at The Aspen Institute

In the morning, Juan Martinez of the Children & Nature Network and Nikki Pitre of the Center for Native American Youth at The Aspen Institute spoke to participants about the driving forces at the heart of Fresh Tracks - building community, addressing systems of inequity, and pushing a movement forward. They each issued a call to action for participants and positioned this weekend as just the beginning of a long-term process to make community change.

Shanice Turner from Opportunity Youth United (OYU) followed with a similar message, sharing OYU’s mission to expand access to opportunities for young people from all backgrounds. OYU’s motto is “nothing about us without us”, so youth are front and center in creating initiatives that address poverty, battle inequity, and improve their communities.  

For Fresh Tracks, pointing out problems - and even identifying solutions - is not enough. Fresh Track is committed to action, and that starts with mobilizing new leaders. With that in mind, two teams of Fresh Tracks Tracks Trainers facilitated interactive sessions focused on enhancing the leaderships skills that participants brought to the training.


First, Trenton Casillas-Bakeberg and Ajee Witherspoon led an exploration of the power of narratives - both the ones we create and the ones created for us - including the narratives that often misrepresent or exclude indigenous peoples.  Later, Trenton and Ajee were joined by Carina Cisneros and Christie Wildcat, two fellow Fresh Tracks Trainers. Together, they helped the participants learn to recognize their personal leadership styles - and how to work with other people with different styles.

In the evening, after team building activities in the outdoors, Dr. Sharoni Little of the USC Marshall School of Business returned to the theme of personal narrative in an implicit bias workshop. Dr. Little’s session prompted participants to examine their assumptions, explore where they come from, and actively work to disrupt the biases we all have - skills that are critical for building relationships with people from different backgrounds without defaulting to stereotypes.

The night ended with the Culture Exchange. Fresh Tracks participants shared meaningful aspects of their cultures, including clothing, beadwork, weaving, jewelry, songs, poetry (and the stories behind these treasures). The moving Culture Share concluded with a round dance, bringing participants together one last time for the day - but not for the training.

Stay tuned for our recap of Day 3!