Ask the Alumnus | Colten Birkland

SRL Fellows Colten Birkland and Alexis Davis (front) with members of the Turtle Mountain Youth Council, which advocates for the needs of young people on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. 

Colten Birkland traveled to Washington D.C. for SRL’s summer academy from North Dakota in 2016, where his passion for storytelling flourished. Recently, he worked with SRL producers on a story about his own community, the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation.

What experiences or lessons do you value most from your time with SRL?

SRL has taught me a number of things! Not only does it give a small town boy like me  a chance at telling his life story, but SRL also shines a light on the beauty of storytelling.

What advice do you have for current SRL participants?

For current SRL students, my advice to them is to continue making stories! You will never have a better platform than SRL both to learn and experience storytelling.

How has being a student journalist helped you grow as an adult? Why do youth voices matter?

Youth voices are super important and I’m a firm believer that they are actually the most important. Young people are the only ones who can speak about issues that are important to them through their experiences. It’s harder for adults to speak on behalf of young people— times are different now.

What do you hope people learn about your community from the stories you’ve told?
I hope people learn that no matter what obstacles you face. You always have a voice.