“I hope to one day see a young Native woman or man listed in the Forbes 30 Under 30.”

Shawn Spruce, a financial education consultant at First Nations Development Institute teaches and inspires Native American youth to take control of their future. He is a leader and an innovator who wants to see people succeed. His work with Native American youth has helped them see new perspectives and set bold goals. 

First Nations Development Institute has impacted the lives of many, and continues to strengthen American Indian communities to create lasting change. They work to improve economic conditions through core values and programs that are redefining impact investing.

What is your vision for the future for Native American youth?

For Native American youth to be better prepared and more competitive after leaving school and entering the workforce.  We tend to isolate ourselves.  Sometimes it’s out of necessity but often it’s a choice. I realize we need to maintain our cultural identity and sense of community; however, ultimately we are measured by the benchmarks of the mainstream.  I hope to one day see a young Native woman or man listed in the Forbes 30 Under 30.

What inspiration have you found in working with Native American youth?

I gain tremendous satisfaction from lighting a spark in a young person’s mind that allows her or him to examine the world from a new perspective.  I’m also able to connect with Native youth on a range of levels.  My role is flexible and allows me to be spontaneous which I think enables some kids to engage more in one of my workshops than they would in other learning environments.  For example, a couple years ago I did a project with a teen parenting program.  At the time my daughter was two years old and I was a first time parent just like many of the high school students I was working with.  It was helpful and inspiring to relate to them not only as a facilitator but also as a new parent.  I taught them how to open savings accounts while they taught me which brand of diapers is less likely to leak.

If you could instantly change one thing for Native American youth, what would that be?

Don’t view yourself as a victim.  I see a lot of us still pushing that tired narrative.  Our land was stolen, genocide, racism.  Sure, we’ve had it tough, same as many other groups, but I don’t think it’s helpful to dwell on negativity.  If we raise our young people to think of themselves as victims then that’s exactly what they’ll become.

What motivates you to do what you do now?

The pay is good and I can’t stand to see people get screwed financially.

Are you living the life you expected to live?

Fifteen years ago I dreamed of being able to make a living doing what I do now.  So yeah, I guess I’m living the life I expected to live.

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