Did You Know ϲʻA Student Tayler Tanginiq Higgins is Earning National Recognition as a Champion for Change?

March 26, 2024

Tayler Tanginiq Higgins, a 20-year-old Indigenous youth advocate at the University of Alaska Anchorage (ϲʻA), has been honored as a Champion for Change by the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY). This prestigious recognition is part of a national initiative aimed at amplifying the impactful work of young Indigenous leaders across the United States.

Why It Matters: Higgins's recognition underscores the vital role young Indigenous leaders play in advocating for systemic change and empowering their communities. This honor highlights the importance of representation, equity, and voice for Indigenous youth in Alaska and across the nation.

The Big Picture: The program, inspired by a 2011 White House initiative, develops young Native leaders through experience-based learning and tailored advocacy training. Each year, CNAY selects five inspirational Native youth, ages 14-24, from across the United States to be Champions for Change.

Zoom in: Higgins represents the Yup’ik, Dena’ina, and Suqpiaq communities. Born and raised in Anchorage, with family roots stretching to Bethel, Ninilchik, and Lake Clark, she is the youngest of seven children and a first-generation undergraduate student. Higgins is not only pursuing a degree in Business Administration with a minor in Alaska Native Studies at ϲʻA but was also a 2023 Native Movement youth cohort leader and the Chair of the Youth Advisory Council for Cook Inlet Tribal Council. She is a 2023-2024 Arctic Youth Ambassador under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a 2023 Native Movement youth cohort leader. Tayler was the 2022 Fur Rendezvous Heritage Ambassador representing her Native community in local events.

What They’re Saying: During the inaugural Champions for Change meeting in Washington, D.C., Higgins shared, "What inspired me to get into this work... was seeing my own people treated awfully... I wanted to see our young people thrive and be uplifted in their voices."

Between the Lines: Higgins's advocacy is rooted in her upbringing in East Anchorage, the most diverse community in Alaska, and the nation. Her firsthand experiences with the challenges faced by urban Native youth have been a driving force behind her dedication to creating a paradigm shift that ensures Indigenous voices are heard and valued.

What’s Next: Through her yearlong participation in the CNAY's Champions for Change program, Higgins will receive advocacy training, participate in experience-based learning, and serve on the CNAY Youth Advisory Board, contributing to the national dialogue on critical issues affecting Indigenous youth and act as a liaison to share resources and opportunities with her peers. Beyond this, she aims to leverage her platform to secure funding for community projects, host educational workshops, and continue her work as an advocate for Indigenous youth empowerment.

 

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