After three years with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council (SCSYAC) Coordinator and Youth Employment Program (YEP) Coordinator Mary Guenther is moving on.
Guenther, who is credited for helping get the Youth Council into the national spotlight, was recognized for her dedication to tribal youth at a farewell party Wednesday, July 27.
“Today we honor success,” Chairman Clement J. Frost said. “She helped build the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council and get them where they needed to be; sacrificing her personal time for the youth.”
Guenther was introduced to the tribe when she started serving as a JOM math tutor six years ago, La Titia Taylor Education Director said. When the YEP coordinator position opened up Guenther applied and got the job. After the Education Department agreed to take on the SCSYAC, Guenther was handed the duties of overseeing the Youth Council – all while attending college full time.
“[She] has been working with the department for three years now and the Youth Employment Program has grown and taken off and the Youth Council has grown nationally,” Taylor said.
A little over a year ago, Guenther knew she wanted to attend graduate school and would be leaving her position. Not wanting the programs to lose momentum, Guenther decided to apprentice a young tribal member to take over her role – Natelle Thompson was selected as her apprentice.
“She’s been a great mentor,” Taylor said.
Council Lady Amy J. Barry and Tribal Council’s Youth Liaison agreed with Taylor and said she looks forward to Thompson taking on the role.
“You’ve done a wonderful job grooming Natelle, the kids think she is great as well,” Barry said. “Change is good, change is scary, but we have a new tribal member that has new ideas.”
Along with the Youth Council and YEP, Guenther is passing on responsibilities of the Jimmy Newton Youth Conference to Thompson as well.
Guenther, Thompson and ShaRay Rock worked tirelessly this past year planning and meeting with Tribal Council, Tribal Departments, family and the community to make sure the conference continued to be an event the youth look forward to.
“Mary and the staff work behind the scenes to help the youth have successful programs,” Taylor said.
Granddaughter of Sunshine Cloud Smith, Chief Judge Chantel Cloud, said she enjoyed her time working with Guenther.
“Over the years you have really helped the kids you have worked with,” she said. “I’ve been so lucky to work with you, and I’m sad you are leaving, but Natelle is going to do a great job … you have been able to teach her and guide her.”
Thompson, a full-time student attending Fort Lewis College pursing a degree in Sociology/Criminology with a minor in Psychology, said she looks forward to continuing to work with the youth and thanked Guenther for preparing her for the role.
“I’m happy to get a chance to work with [Mary], I’ve learned a lot. She’s done really good mentoring me … she’s taught me so many things and I’m sad she’s leaving.”
Guenther’s last day was Monday, Aug. 1; she will be attending CU Boulder this fall to pursue her master’s degree in Multi-Cultural Education.