Dahkota Franklin Kicking Bear Brown, a 14-year-old Wilton Miwok student, from Jackson, California was chosen as a 2013 Champion for Change by the Center for Native American Youth because, as the organization says, he “understands the importance of education and the need for encouragement from peers, family, community members, and the school system.”
Brown, a high school freshman, was selected because he started a peer-to-peer study group he calls NERDS (Native Education Raising Dedicated Students.) In addition to study, Brown reaches out to Native students to help them better connect to lessons, creates mock quizzes, helps to review class work and homework and is planning to arrange field trip visits to California colleges.
How did you get started helping other Native students?
My family says I was born a leader and recently reminded me, when I was in 3rd and 4th grade, I wouldn’t do my school work in class so I could help everyone around me then I would do my own work at home later. I was very proud to receive the Presidential Award for outstanding grades and leadership when graduating from 5th grade into junior high where I was elected class representative for 6th and again for 7th grade. At 13 years old, I was elected 8th grade class president and I am currently the freshman class president.
NERDS is newly named but the group was formed last year while I was in 8th grade. I wrote a code of conduct and our logo, which was hand drawn by current 8th grader Elyssia Maysee.
In the area of education, learning from example and having a positive role model makes all the difference in the world. At 14, I am far from an expert on anything. I do have a ton of things I think I am good at and love to do. Being a traditional Miwok dancer, getting top grades and being class president are only a small part of who I am.
How have your efforts helped your Native community?
There are currently 14 students that consider themselves NERDS. This has grown quickly with more interest weekly. Two students brought their grades up so they could make the high school football team. A shy, quiet 8th grader is now interested in leadership and running for office next year. A student that never turned in an essay in his English class recently was the first to complete the assignment and received a B+. When we gather we share our good news and accomplishments for the week and commend each other. We also encourage each other to be truthful and share our mistakes so we can help each other to correct them.
How does being Native affect how you view the world and what you are doing?
As a proud Native American, I was raised with very strong traditions. Growing up, there were some rules I was told to always live by. These rules were the same my ancestors lived by. Never take more than you need, nothing goes to waste, respect everyone especially your elders and Mother Earth, and never leave a problem unsolved.
Who has been your biggest influence?
I love my dad, Donald Franklin Brown Jr., he’s the most loyal, honest, hard-working man I know. He is compassionate, supportive, and has raised my brother and I with good morals and high standards that will make our futures great, but the biggest influence in life is most definitely my older brother, Dahlton Brown. He has been there for me since birth. In fact, he asked for me as a Christmas present; he wanted a little brother and a strawberry milkshake.
Dahlton encouraged me to start NERDS by pointing out how easy it is to take peer advice. He was right; it is easier to take his advice over our parents, even though he suggested the same thing they did.
If you could have your life’s dream come true, what would it be?
I would like endless chocolate chip cookies, more Looney Tunes cartoons on TV and to take Malia Obama to prom. But on a more serious note, I want Native American children to look to the future and make a change. A dream come true would be seeing the first Native American on the Supreme Court. I hope to see someone represent our people before I grow up, but if not, I would like to be the first.