National Indian Youth Leadership Project: Project Venture

National Indian Youth Leadership Project

The National Indian Youth Leadership Project (NIYLP) is a national leader in Indigenous positive youth development and experiential education. Founded and rooted in New Mexico, NIYLP has been working over three decades to help Indigenous youth to embrace their potential through outdoor adventure and service.

NIYLP’s flagship program, Project Venture, is an evidence-based, culturally guided, outdoor experiential youth adventure program that incorporates service learning and peer mentoring and leadership. Project Venture was created under the guidance of Indigenous elders, who emphasized using traditional culture to address contemporary challenges. NIYLP works in partnership with schools to fill a gap in services. Project Venture aims to strengthen and increase protective factors and reduce risk factors that predispose Indigenous adolescents to negative and risky behaviors. Evaluation outcomes show reductions in risky behaviors including substance abuse, teen pregnancy, violence, depression, and anxiety; and increases in positive youth development indicators including those related to competency, connection, character, caring, confidence, and contribution.

Project Venture has been adapted to address opioid use disorder, suicide prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention, teen pregnancy prevention, and transition to adulthood. Our newest adaptation, Project Pre-Venture, connects Indigenous elementary school-aged children to their ancestral traditions around sustainable agricultural practices and the natural world through gardening and other outdoor experiential activities.

NIYLP has served thousands of Indigenous and at-risk youth in more than 90 replication sites across 25 states, Canada, Jamaica, and Europe. Currently, NIYLP provides direct services to about 1,000 young people in three states, with 600 located in New Mexico. NIYLP also provides capacity building training and guidance to 60 Project Venture replication sites nationally and internationally.


The Santa Fe Community Foundation invited nonprofit partners to submit stories related to its May topic of Mental Health Awareness.

May 15, 2023
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