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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 29, 2001 - Issue 52


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Above & Beyond: She Helps American Indian Youths Fulfill Their Potential

credits: When They Were Babies by Virginia Stroud
When They Were Babies by Virginia StroudIn an interview, Linda Rey is quiet, her voice hardly above a whisper. She laughs nervously.

She is shy, she said. She doesn't understand why she is drawing attention.

"I don't belong in there (Above & Beyond)," she said.

Others disagree.

Rey, 41, is a quiet inspiration -- to her co-workers, her family and, perhaps most importantly, to American Indian youth.

As director of the Youth Alcohol Prevention Program at the Sacramento Urban Indian Health Project, it's her job to help those kids. But it's more than a job.

It's a calling that keeps her in her office from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. some days.

"That's not that long," she said. "If I wasn't doing it, I wouldn't know what to do with myself."

Even when a family member took ill, she had to be dragged away from work, her boss said.

She takes a modest budget for her program and does wonders with it, he said. She goes far beyond anti-alcohol education, trying to raise self-esteem and promote cultural awareness through dance, crafts and other things she learned from her mother.

If they don't have the bus money, kids will walk miles to spend time with her in her midtown after-school programs.

When she scrapes up the funds, she takes kids on trips, to Indian Grinding Rock State Park, to Yosemite for the Bear Dance, and most recently to Spokane, Wash., for a national youth gathering.

"We took them to Spokane. That's what changed them," she said.

Teens who had been unmotivated found a cause when they were able to meet others from around the country. "Now, they want to start networks," Rey said.

Rey has a way with kids, said Shirley Martinez, her niece and the tribal administrator for the Ione Band of Miwok Indians.

She isn't shy around them. She opens up, Martinez said. "They love her. She's good with them."

"The kids that she works with, they don't always have the ability to aspire to much. She gets them to see beyond what they have in front of them," Martinez said.

What is right in front of them is not pretty. Poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence are all there.

"They'd be street kids if they didn't come here," Rey said. "We want them to go out and start achieving higher goals."

It isn't an abstract goal for Rey. It's personal. She's taken in teens whose parents wouldn't raise them, and she's buried relatives killed by alcohol.

"That's why you want to help others, so they don't have to go through that pain," she said. "I don't want the kids to grow up and have to go through all that."

"I have my work cut out," she said. "It's going to be a lot of work."

Not that she shies away from work.

"She's always doing something that's not her responsibility," said Sean Benedict, her supervisor at the Health Project.

When the project sought to draw more people to its health fair by turning it into a powwow, "she took over and volunteered to be the chairman," Benedict said.

The first powwow drew 700 people -- seven times what the health fair brought in.

She's a never-ending source of ideas to help others.

She wants to buy blankets to hand out to the homeless. She's developing grant proposals to take educational programs to reservations and rancherias. "My old boss said I should be a millionaire (from all the ideas), but I'd give it all away," she said.

That's her hope for developing a casino -- that she could use proceeds for those in need. She'd develop a "homeless mansion," not just a shelter, she said. "And I plan on taking all the kids from here to Disneyland."

It's all about making a healthier world.

"She just wants to see people have it better than they do," Martinez said.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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