There is a proverb that is said to have originated among the Nigerian Igbo culture in Africa which states “It takes a village to raise a child.” For the Ak-Chin Indian Community, this is very much the case.
It is our children that will grow to one day have their first job on the reservation, become a future council member and one day an elder, who will have great authority in the decision-making of our community. Without proper schooling, parenting and many other factors that go into the making of a well-rounded individual, our community will be unable to develop and thrive. This is why education has become a top priority of the Ak-Chin Indian community, as it should be within all communities.
While public and private school systems offer a variety of programs, clubs, technology and staff members with which to nurture a child’s development, there must also be that support and encouragement at home. Not just from Mom or Dad, but from other family members, friends and neighbors. Without the encouragement of the entire community (or village) who is to say how a child’s path may differ from their peers.
Struggles in education is something we have witnessed first-hand among children within the Ak-Chin Indian community, as most communities do, and it is something we are striving to change for the better. Not just for our children, but for our entire community. Whether students drop out during high school or don’t utilize the skills they’ve learned once they do graduate, neither are things we want our children to face.
Nurturing their development, encouraging their dreams and offering support along the way is sometimes all we can do, but it just may be the one thing that makes a difference in a child’s life, and an enormous impact on the community in which they live.
Currently chairman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community, Louis J. Manuel Jr. is an advocate for education, social and health services. In addition to managing operations, finances and overseeing all departments, Manuel also serves in various capacities within the community – be it as first vice president of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA) and vice chairman of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association (AIGA), both of which Ak-Chin is a member; or serving as a commissioner in various departments within the Community.