From the first time I connected with NAYA in 2002, I knew I had found something special. The holidays always bring up fond memories of sitting around a big table and wrapping gifts in the basement of our old building on the corner of North Mississippi and Shaver, loading the presents into the NAYA van, and delivering them to families all over Portland. I’m so grateful for these memories and many more that I would have an opportunity to create as my involvement with NAYA grew.
For over thirteen years, the NAYA Family Center has been a big part of my life, offering me a genuine connection to my culture and pride in my identity. NAYA is a big part of my family’s life, too. My son, Marcus Joetsutood (joyful boy in the Lushootseed language), is being raised with a clear sense of his own Native American identify; since Marcus could talk, he has proudly identified as “NAYA American,” proving an adorable, and important, lesson: A positive cultural identity is paramount to our present happiness and future success.
NAYA has also provided me with wonderful personal and professional opportunities, which is why I’m very excited to share with you that at the end of this year, I am transitioning from the organization to join the Meyer Memorial Trust as their new Director of Equitable Education.
We’ve had so many wonderful successes over the time I’ve served as NAYA’s leader. We’ve grown our budget by over 20%, added essential early childhood services, scaled impact in previously under served areas of our region, and built critically-needed housing. We’ve created unprecedented partnerships, grown in national recognition, and leveraged collaborations to reach our strategic goals. Just last week, I signed closing documents on our Generations project, assuring greater support and stability for foster youth and elders in our city. I’m leaving NAYA filled with pride, confident in the organization’s future, and excited about my next professional adventure.
I cherish the relationships I have built with the board of directors, staff, and community while serving as NAYA’s Executive Director, and I know many of these relationships will last a lifetime. NAYA has changed my life, and I will carry this with me as I move into my new position. I’m not going anywhere far, and I know my connection to this community will continue to be as strong as ever.
I’m grateful for my time at NAYA, and I can’t wait to see what amazing work happens next.
Matt Morton, Squaxin Island