NAYA Celebrates 50 Years of Impact

NAYA Celebrates 50 Years of Impact

As we commemorate half a century of dedicated service and advocacy, we reflect on our journey and celebrate our profound impact. Since our inception in 1974, we have been committed to uplifting Native American youth and families, foster resilience, and promoting cultural reclamation and sovereignty. 

Over the past five decades, NAYA has evolved into a thriving community center, providing sanctuary, hope, and empowerment through comprehensive support services, educational opportunities, and cultural enrichment programs to thousands of Native community members. From early childhood education initiatives to workforce development programs, we have continuously adapted to meet the needs of our community, while honoring and celebrating our diversity of heritage and traditions. 

As we mark this significant milestone, we pay tribute to our visionary leaders, staff, partners, and supporters who have contributed to our success. Their dedication, passion, and unwavering belief in our mission have been instrumental in shaping NAYA into the transformative force it is today.  

Our history: community first and foremost 

NAYA was founded by the community for the community. In 1974, parents and volunteers were concerned about the graduation rates of their youth. They organized after-school sports and tutoring sessions to keep youth engaged in community. With limited funds and a big vision, they gathered youth and community in different places, catch as catch can.  

March 2, 1994: a 501(c)(3) organization 

Gaining 501(c)(3) status marked a pivotal point for NAYA, propelling our growth and impact. With this status, we solidified our commitment to our mission and gained credibility in the eyes of donors, partners, and the community. We could also access a wider range of funding opportunities, apply for grants and contracts which allowed us to expand our programs and services beyond youth to serve everyone from babies to elders. For NAYA and our community, obtaining 501(c)(3) status meant anything was possible.  

Now with a $22 million budget and staff of 150, NAYA offers a wide breadth of services that support our community members’ health and wellbeing. Offered free of charge to participants, our five programmatic areas include our alternative high school, the Many Nations Academy, Community Economic Development Services, Family Services, Housing and Stabilization Services, and Youth and Education Services. 

Our Name 

The Native American Youth and Family Center, also known as NAYA Family Center, was originally founded as the Native American Youth Association in 1974, or NAYA. NAYA was established to connect youth with their cultural roots through providing healthy activities while students were not in school. 

“NAYA” is a special name that has developed a rich meaning through our history. Our name was chosen through a collaborative process involving parents and elders who gathered to shape the identity of the organization. An elder originally from a pueblo in New Mexico suggested the name NAYA, an acronym for Native American Youth Association, that also means “Mother” in her home language. 

As we expanded our services, it made sense to expand our name. “NAYA” remains because it represents our foundational programming; “Family Center” replaced “Youth Association” to reflect our holistic approach to serving everyone in the entire family. 

An audacious 50-year vision 

Looking ahead, we remain steadfast in our commitment to advancing equity, justice, and opportunity for our Native community. As we boldly envision our next 50 years, we reaffirm our dedication to building an abundant future where our Native community members are healthy, safely housed, financially empowered, civically engaged, and connected with their cultures and one another for generations to come. 

Reclaiming our Past, Cultivating our Future

Join us as we celebrate 50 years of resilience, strength, and community at NAYA, where we will honor our past achievements, recognize our present impact, and inspire continued progress towards a vibrant and prosperous future. 

For more information about NAYA’s 50th Anniversary celebration and how you can get involved, please visit or contact Together, let us continue to empower, uplift, and celebrate the resilience of our Native community.