By BROOKLYN BROWN
One Feather Reporter
CHEROKEE, N.C. – Lucina Lira is a youth development professional for the Cherokee Youth Center, an afterschool and summer youth program. Lira, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), attended the Youth Center as a child, and she now enjoys providing a fun and educational space for new generations.
Lira, and other employees of the Cherokee Youth Center, spend their mornings delivering meals to elders in the Cherokee community. Their afternoons are spent with the children. To start the morning off, Lira treads to Tsali Manor to pick up meals and a fresh edition of the Cherokee One Feather to deliver on her route, which his currently “Lower Birdtown.”
“The route usually lasts been 9:30am and 11:30am,” Lira said. “I enjoy delivering meals and speaking with the elders when they come out.”
Lira and her coworkers gather meals and papers for their routes and head on their way. The morning starts out chilly and heats up as the sun peaks over the mountains and bakes the windshield. Lira drives the route like second nature, just in time for the routes to switch. “We’re starting to switch routes every two weeks,” she said. “There’s usually a dozen or more stops on the route.”
Lira’s is just one vehicle in a spread of Youth Center workers tackling the terrain of Cherokee to deliver meals. For them, the morning is an opportunity to travel the community and provide for the elders. It’s a mostly peaceful trek – aside from a few Rez dogs – through the mountains before the high energy of the rest of the day.
The Youth Center is decked with an indoor slide between floors, life-size chess and checkers, ski ball machines, an outdoor playground, a basketball court, and more. The classrooms are decorated with vibrant murals of each of the seven clans of the Cherokee, and the halls have their own bright murals. Lira walked through the building with pride at the end of her route, greeting her coworkers and preparing for a day of programming with her group, which is pre-teens and teens.
“I’m teaching a program right now about resisting peer pressure, avoiding gangs, handling conflicts, issues like that,” Lira said. “We have activities and programs for different age groups. I just recently finished a program with them about the effects of nicotine.”
Lira enjoys the new Youth Center building, but she reminisces on the nostalgia of spending her childhood at the Youth Center. “I could map the old building out right now,” she said. “The new building is really nice, but I have good memories of the old one. I think the kids now really enjoy the new center and they’re making their own memories here.”
Learn more about the Cherokee Youth Center at Home (cherokeeyouthcenter.com)