Torralba is the proud mother of Chado and twins Matthias and Kateri.
She is also the founder of the Community
Esteem Project in Anadarko, Oklahoma and a 2008 Young People
For fellow at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. In
this interview, she talks about the importance of community esteem,
the power of traditions and how other YP4 fellows have inspired
what do you stand for?
a big one. Helping people, unifying different types of people. Really,
I stand for helping people thats what I like to do.
me about your Blueprint for Social Justice.
called the community esteem project. What Im focusing on is
building community esteem in Anadarko, Oklahoma. I want to work
with young Native American girls, preferably between the ages of
12 and 18, and work with them on their self-esteem and how that
relates to building community esteem in our town. What theyll
do is come in twice a week and work on a curriculum geared towards
building their self-esteem through teaching traditional native values
and sitting with women Native American elders while theyre
is it important to build esteem in Native American girls? Is that
a major problem?
I found working in the educational sector in town is that [the girls]
have a defeatist mentality in their education and academic work.
I worked out [...] that it seemed to come from the home. They dont
feel like they can achieve good grades or finish school or actually
graduate high school. They dont feel like theyre smart
enough, good enough or that it matters. So I created a root cause
tree so I could see where it came from. [The root cause tree is
part of the curriculum at the YP4 National Summit, which kicks off
the fellowship year.]
the root cause is home life?
are a number of factors. There are historical factors loss
of culture through assimilation and government policy that was geared
towards assimilating Native Americans into a culture they werent
result of that was a loss of culture and the question, Where
do these girls fit in society? If theyre not assimilated
into mainstream culture they gravitate toward bad elements: gang
activity, substance abuse or domestic violence. They feel like they
dont fit into society. But with this curriculum were
trying to show them that they do fit in, because they make their
own spot in society. They dont have to fit anywhere.
They make their own spot by going back to their traditions.
do you reintroduce them to those traditions?
plan is to have elder women sit with them, talk with them, tell
them about their life experiences and how theyve overcome
different obstacles in their lives whether that be substance
abuse or domestic violence or getting out of the game and
how theyve managed to survive better for themselves.
the same time, the elders that Ive spoken with that have had
these experiences are very traditional. Theyve come back to
their traditional ways. They may know traditional native language,
religious songs we call them hymns or how to make
regalia, be that moccasins or dresses or shawls. Then there are
the stories that go along with traditional values and morals, old
stories that have been passed down forever. A lot of these women
know these stories that have a message that these girls dont
necessarily hear at home, but would be able to hear in this program.
been your biggest struggle as a progressive leader?
people within the town to see this as a program to help the whole
community, not just the native community.
do you deal with that?
the part where the community esteem comes in. We have a high population
of Native Americans that live in our town. We are the town, yknow?
But we dont contribute a lot to the economic development of
the town. Theres a high unemployment rate, a high dropout
rate, theres teen pregnancy. In building these ladies
self-esteem, they realize their connection to the town, [that] where
they live matters and how they live matters and how they better
that lifestyle betters the community. So thats how Ive
put it together.
been your biggest success as a progressive leader?
is it. This Blueprint is the biggest one so far. The biggest success.
a strategy youve found that you think works?
with media, from what Ive seen. Getting that information out,
asking for volunteers and asking for help. Rather than saying Im
going to do this and this is how its going to be, Im
open to suggestions and help. It makes it a more organic program.
an approach youve tried that hasnt worked so well?
suggestions instead of acting on them. Thats the biggest one.
inspired you to apply for the YP4 fellowship?
who is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, completed the 2006 YP4
fellowship and the 2007 Front Line Leaders Academy, through which
he won the mock election to be president of Young People For. We
laugh because Kevin
Killer kicks ass.)
been a big inspiration.
about Kevin Killer?
hes very successful and you can tell hes benefited from
YP4... and he still is [benefiting] now! That was very encouraging
to see that, and to see a young Native American man achieve so much.
That he was willing to spread the word about YP4, that helped a
lot too. Hes a good guy and hes got amazing energy.
I thought, If Kevin can do it, thats awesome.
So I felt like I definitely wanted to.
has stood out to you about the program so far?
fact that people want to do so much for other people. The open arms
and saying, Here is all our support, here are all our resources,
heres a path and someone to help you along the way.
Thats been amazing and Im so glad to be a part of it.
would you like to see the progressive movement change for the future?
the whole point, isnt it? Its progressive so its
always going to change. To make sure that it doesnt become
a cookie cutter image of itself, that it doesnt become marketed.
Thats the biggest thing... We need to make sure that it stays
organic and pure.
next for you?
Ive been accepted into the Front
Line Leaders Academy.
you very much. Ill be working with that, and Ill continue
to work on my Blueprint and have it become a success.