Western Native Voice works year-round to inspire Native leadership so our communities flourish. We are excited to share with you Western Native Voice’s Community Spotlight, designed to highlight grassroots organizing and individuals creating change from across Montana.
Learning how to be comfortable, being uncomfortable.
This month we visited with18 year-old Alyssa Toce-Blount, an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes. Alyssa is a Frazer high school student who has participated in the Expanding Horizons youth ambassador program and is an inspiration to her community and tribes.
Where do you go to school and do you plan on attending college?
I am a senior at Frazer High School. I plan to go to college, but changed my mind this past year. I decided to go to Fort Peck Community College because I want to get custody of my little sisters, and get a house for us. When I graduate from there, I plan to transfer to MSU-Northern in Havre. I want to be a PE teacher. I would like to come back to my home town to steal my coach’s PE spot at Frazer.
What organizations, clubs or extracurricular activities do you participate in?
We don’t have any clubs at my school. As far as sports, I did three years of cross country. Running is my outlet, it helps me let go of all my stuff. I also am a youth ambassador in the Western Native Voice’s Expanding Horizons youth program.
What other activities have you participated in that have inspired you?
I participated in the Warrior challenge, which is an obstacle course put on by the college in Poplar. Now they are bringing it to Frazer and it has inspired a lot of kids to be active.
I have been a part of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) run. I ran 21 miles and biked 5 miles. Me and one of my cousins also participated in a Red Ribbon run of 21 miles. It promotes drug and alcohol awareness. I was in Helena this year and was a legislative page. It was cool, I worked for a week…I loved it. I told my sisters about it and hopefully my younger sister will try it out. I found out that I like politics…it is chaotic but I like it. Fun fact: don’t wear heels at the capitol. We didn’t get to use elevators and had to use the stairs, so I got a good workout while I was there.
Who were your mentors as a child?
Myself…my real mom wasn’t there a lot, I was my siblings mom…I had to do everything myself. When I was 12 years old, I went to stay with my grandma and my other mom. I was very depressed and sad. It was then that I got help and figured things out. It has been good since then. Now I will be graduating from high school and I have been prepping and it’s crazy that I am already graduating…I am the valedictorian. I also love the WNV Expanding Horizons program and I was glad to be a part of it this year.
Alyssa celebrated with her great grandmother Thelma Blount on her birthday. Also, pictured are her sisters Kalianna, Dallas. Marilyn and grandma, Delane Blount.
Are you a goal setter?
I didn’t want to be like my parents who left. I wanted to break that cycle and set a better goal for myself and my children and be better people. Ever since I was a freshman, I wanted to be valedictorian. As a freshman, we wrote letters to our future selves, and I will get to read it after graduation…I get to hear my freshman self.
Who are your mentors now?
My moms, Angie Toce and Delane Blount. When I first went to live with them…my mom Angie worked hard to fix us mentally and teach us new things. She talked with us every day that we could do better and now we are really strong believers in God and I even got baptized last summer. She has always pushed me to my ultimate limit and tells me that it will all be okay. A guest speaker with the WNV Expanding Horizons program told us that “You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable”. That stuck with me and I always say that now. My sister even drew a picture of me and put that saying on it for me. I want other kids to realize that it’s not hard to be positive, and if they have someone that is a positive role model they will have an easier time to get involved in things.
Alyssa celebrated dinner with members of the Indian Caucus and others when she was a page in the 2023 legislative session.
What types of challenges have you faced and what did you learn from those challenges?
I learned that I couldn’t live in the past, because I was like that for 3 years. I let my birth mom leaving us get to me and I wasn’t growing. I had a hard time doing things and wasn’t motivated. My mom Angie kept pushing me and pushing me. It helped. Sometimes people have to be pushed to get higher on those steps. I use running to help me and it helps me get things off my mind. I go to church and ask for prayer requests. I know now that there is always gonna be someone there to help me and I can do whatever I put my mind to. It’s hard to ask for help, but I tried to do it on my own and realized, you have to have somebody.
What kind of change do you want to see in your community 5 years from now?
Better interactions with teenagers and a place for teens to hang out. There is nothing here in Frazer, we have to drive far to get anywhere. We need a safe and fun place for kids to hang out and have something to do besides drinking or smoking weed.
What roles does your culture play in your life? I actually don’t know alot about my culture. We don’t have a Native American studies teacher in our school. I go to pow wows sometimes, but we have to travel a long way to go to one. I did take a college course in Native American studies and it was really powerful and I learned alot about the history and how much of our history is actually true and not true…how much we don’t know because it wasn’t written down back then.
Alyssa participate in the WNV Expanding Horizons Youth Helena Experience in the Spring of 2023.
What is the most rewarding cause/project you have been a part of?
What did it teach you? This summer, before my junior year, I participated in the MMWI run which inspired me to want to do more. I realized that other kids could see me participate in things and get inspired and more involved with outside activities…like WNV’s Expanding Horizons and the legislative page experience. I want kids to know that there is more than just the reservation.
Do you have any plans to run for office in the future? (BIG SMILE)
Soooo…I figured out that I can run for state senator when I am 21. So I will be a PE teacher until then. Also, I would like to be on the Frazer school board, but I have to wait for a position to open up. I want to see a lot of change in the school here. My sisters are still going to school here.
Any last words of advice?
It is always going to be hard, but you can do it and if you put your mind to it, you can achieve that goal. I want to tell kids that this is always going to be home, but you CAN go outside the reservation and open your mind to new experiences. Take a dive into different opportunities. Jump out of your comfort zone. You have to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.