The Boys and Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe received national recognition last week when one of their team members was nominated and honored at the 2022 Native Summit for Boys and Girls Club of America. Cassandra Sanchez, Site Director for the Boys and Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, received the prestigious Native Spirit Award, Thursday, Nov. 20, in Orlando, Fla. Carla Knapp, National Vice President of Native Services presented the Native Spirit Award to Sanchez in person, thanking Sanchez for her exemplary service.
“I’m very honored to have received this award,” Sanchez said.” Working in the BGC movement for as long as I have, I know that there are so many individuals across the country that are doing good work, and that could easily be awarded for their efforts for what they do for youth. There are a lot of people who have their heart in it.”
“The Native Spirit Award is the most prestigious Boys & Girls Clubs of America award presented to Club staff. It recognizes individuals from our Boys & Girls Clubs on Native lands who most exemplify service to members and their families, passion for and commitment to the work, creativity and imagination, and support of the community,” according to BGC National Vice President of Native Services, Carla Knapp (Penobscot).
Cassandra “Cass” Sanchez began working as a Program Aid in 2011, she was then promoted to Program Coordinator two years later, then Behavioral Coordinator in 2015 and Site Director in 2017. Sanchez was born and raised in Ignacio.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America of America as two subsets, one recognizing and supporting Native Service and another for Military Service.
“This is the first-time in the history of the club that one of our staff has been awarded a national level award,” LeClaire said. “That really kind of elevates us in front of our peers, and hopefully motivates them to continue to develop in order to gain similar recognition at a national level.”
The Native Spirit Award gives $2,500 to the club for general operation, which can be used at the discretion of the club; Sanchez also receives a personal monetary award for her exemplary service to BGC — all in conjunction with the Native Spirit Award.
“I was very surprised, because I was under the impression that I was receiving an award on behalf of Bruce LeClaire,” Sanchez said. “As she was reading the award, I figured out it was me.”
The list accomplishment that Sanchez was recognized for include Club Director’s Academy through BGC America, certified learning coach, tier one national training associate, certified trainer in first aid and CPR, certified trainer in non-violent crisis intervention, and extensive knowledge of community and diverse cultures of the tri-ethnic community in which the club serves. Sanchez also sits on the board led safety committee. “Staff training is the most important because safety is our number one priority,” Sanchez said. “We have several certified trainers on staff.”
Chief Executive Officers can submit a nomination, and Sanchez was selected.
“I’m very proud of Cass and everything she does for our club, which is why I nominated her for the award.” said Bruce LeClaire, CEO for the Boys and Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. “I appreciate her willingness to do whatever it takes to benefit our club and move forward as a team.”
“I started BGC as a Fort Lewis student, fell in love with it and have been here ever since,” Sanchez said. She attained her Sociology degree from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., and a then her Senior Seminar project became her first foray into the world of BGC. “I was already an employee of BGC [by the end of college] and moved straight into the position after graduation.”
“I think this sets the stage for our club,” Sanchez said. “Going to conferences, and networking with other clubs; it gave me a perspective on how great our club is doing. Our club is specifically leading the way in best practices in many areas for clubs across the country.”
The Native Summit is a bi-annual conference, specific to clubs working in Indian Country, drawing in around 400 participants each year. Representing alongside Sanchez at this year’s summit in Florida were CEO Bruce LeClaire, Behavioral Coordinator, Journii Cordova, BGC Program Aids — Nick Sanchez, Dawrence Romero, Armondo Dominguez, plus Board President Laura Sanchez.
BGC of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe is part of the Colorado Alliance. The Colorado Alliance has a council made up of directors, from each board of directors, to vote on national issues; the council is comprised of 17 clubs all together for the state.
“We pay membership dues to the alliance, which help with state funding through grants; they also lobby at the state level on anything around youth initiatives,” LeClaire explained. “National BGC of America also provides marketing, professional development training, and funding opportunities.”
“The biggest benefit of being a department of the Tribe is that we are supported with a budget,” he added. “Additional funding opportunities come from the Colorado Alliance and national — but are not guaranteed.”
The club’s Mission Statement reads, “The Boys & Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe will provide a safe and nurturing environment that guides each young person on their path to developing good character, a respect of culture, diversity, academic excellence, and development of a healthy mind, body, and spirit.”
“The BGC Board of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe is very proud of Cassandra Sanchez and her accomplishments as the BGC Site Director,” BGC Board President Laura Sanchez emphasized. “Receiving this award on a national level goes to show the greatness that the Boys & Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe is doing and that it doesn’t go unnoticed. The rest of the BGC staff also play a huge role in such great success — congratulations and way to go Cassandra and the entire BGC staff!”