I Strengthen My Nation: American Indian and Alaska Native Community Projects Created by Youth to Stand Against Substance Misuse

Four male youth sitting together planning event at table
Courtesy of We R Native

Calling all creative youth 14-25 years old! Are you concerned about substance misuse in your community? Do you believe that the strength and power in indigenous people and tribal communities can help fight substance misuse and inform solutions? Could you use some money to support activities that promote resilience in your community? Here’s your chance to win big and do just that!

Substance misuse is preventable and treatable and there have been many programs created to do just that. Youth are rarely a part of this process and we want you to help change that! We know you have creative, innovative ideas for projects that could decrease substance use and promote resilience in American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities.  What do you want to tell people about the strengths in your people and your community that protect against drug misuse – that stop people from using drugs or help combat addiction? What ideas do you have for a project that you and your community could undertake to enhance resilience against substance misuse? We know Indigenous people are resilient, let’s share those strengths and let your voice be heard! Let’s share your innovation solutions to address substance misuse!

We challenge you to create 1) a detailed plan for a project that can help strengthen your community and promote resilience against drug misuse AND 2) a video that describes resilience against substance misuse in yourself and/or your community and how your project could enhance it. The video should be crafted so that viewers are inspired by the ideas and could consider doing the same sort of project in their own tribal community or researchers and the community could partner to test whether the ideas can be developed into an intervention. The budget should include enough detail and explanation of costs so that other tribal communities could use it as a guide. We’re offering cash prizes to the most innovative, creative, unique project proposals and videos that represent resilience and promote the strength of your community. We will share the winning submissions across the country, so your plan might help others!

Read the official Rules and Requirements for more information.

UPDATE: The final submission deadline has been extended to December 10th, 2021. All entries submitted by the Round One submission date of July 7th, 2021 will be assessed during Round One Judging in July 2021, and all other entries will be assessed in Round Two Judging in January 2022. If you submit by the Round One July 7th submission deadline and you are not selected for a prize in Round One, your submission will still be considered in Round Two of judging unless you send an email to NIDAAIANComChallenge@nida.nih.gov stating you do not want to be considered in Round Two of judging.

Challenge Goal and Theme:

Challenge Goal

As part of its mission, The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), seeks to identify intervention strategies to combat drug addiction. Recognizing that youth voices and creativity are critical to this goal, NIDA announces “I Strengthen My Nation: American Indian and Alaska Native Community Projects Created by Youth to Stand Against Substance Misuse” in partnership with the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB), through the We R Native program. Youth participatory action research has demonstrated that youth participation in carrying out substance misuse prevention research yields community-specific prevention methods and materials, increasing community awareness of substance misuse and solutions. The goal of this challenge is to show how youth participation can help identify feasible intervention strategies that will inform subsequent intervention development and testing. 

Challenge Theme

The theme of this challenge is to collect the best ideas from youth on how to leverage indigenous resilience to combat substance misuse through community projects. NIDA is seeking to reward and incentivize the development of ideas for feasible intervention strategies. Submissions should include both a project description and a video depicting resilience, how it relates to substance misuse, and how the project can support resilience against substance misuse.


The NPAIHB is a non-profit tribal advisory organization serving the forty-three federally recognized tribes of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho (https://www.npaihb.org/). Among other programs, the NPAIHB carries out the We R Native program (https://www.wernative.org/). Through the We R Native program, NPAIHB has assisted NIDA in market research while developing the Challenge and will assist in advertising the Challenge and engaging Native youth as well as serving as external reviewers of submissions.

Dates and Deadlines

  • Final Submission Deadline Extended!
  • Cash prizes offered: Up to $10,000 per entry, Minimum prize $2000, total purse of $85,000
  • Type of challenge: Ideas, Plans, Creative (multimedia & design)
  • Submission Start: April 8th, 2021: 12:00 AM ET
  • Round One Submission Date: July 7th, 2021: 11:59 PM ET
  • Final Submission Date (Round Two): December 10th, 2021: 11:59 PM ET
  • Round One Judging: July 2021
  • Round Two Judging: January 2022
  • Winners Announced: July 30th, 2021 (Round One) and March, 2022 (Round Two)

How to Enter

Participants must send an email to NIDAAIANComChallenge@nida.nih.gov using the subject line “AI/AN Community Challenge Entry” with the following:

  1. One completed entry form per group
  2. One completed entry form/waiver for each individual participating or appearing in the video
  3. A written community project proposal.
  4. The filename of a high quality video describing your project (video itself will be sent using Box.com; create a free account here). Please see submission requirements below.  

If you submit by the Round One submission date of July 7th, your project will be considered in round one of judging. If you are not selected for a prize in Round One, your submission will still be considered in Round Two of judging unless you send an email to NIDAAIANComChallenge@nida.nih.gov stating you do not want to be considered in Round Two of judging. 

Submission Requirements:

  1. Video: Please create a 3-5 minute video to describe the following: 1) what resilience against substance misuse means to you and/or your community, 2) a community project that could benefit your community, and 3) how the project could enhance resilience against substance misuse in your community.
    • Videos should not exceed 5 minutes including introduction and credits if applicable.
    • Videos should be sent using Box.com (create a free account here) Once the free account is created and the video or large image file is uploaded, click on “Share” to the right of your file, enter the email address murrayjl@nih.gov, and click “Send” to share the file. 
    • Include captioning or submit a written transcript in English for any video with dialogue, to ensure the video can be understood by viewers with disabilities.
    • Be safe and stop the spread of COVID-19! We encourage you to collaborate virtually wherever possible. 
  2. Project proposal and plan. A project proposal must be submitted in a PDF format and be no longer than 2,500 words (approximately 5 single-spaced pages). The following points must be addressed to be considered a complete submission:
    • Provide a complete project description including the purpose, need, target audience, innovation, and significance—why is the project needed? Why is the project important for your community? Who will benefit from the project?
    • Explain what you hope to achieve through your community project and how it will promote resilience against substance misuse in AI/AN communities. What are the expected outcomes?
    • Provide an overview of the project budget estimating costs associated with the preparation, planning, and implementation of the project. Budgets should include written details on the costs, explaining their purpose and why they are necessary for the program’s success. NIDA only seeks to reward and incentivize feasible ideas for interventions. 
    • Please include the title of your project and all group member names on your proposal.
  3. Group entry form. Each group should submit ONE group entry form per project.
  4. Individual entry form/waiver. In addition to the group entry form, every team member and any individual appearing in the video must submit an individual entry form/waiver.


All qualifying entries will be assessed by a panel of Federal employees who may consider technical evaluations from external reviewers, comprised of prominent members of the American Indian and Alaska Native non-profit and service community, as well as our partnering organization, NPAIHB through the We R Native program. 

The following criteria will be assessed: video creativity, adherence to the theme, project innovation, budget scope/appropriateness, and potential for impact. 

Basis Upon Which Videos Will Be Evaluated:

  • Theme (0-10 points): Does the video clearly reflect the themes of resilience and substance misuse? Is the submission relevant to American Indian and/or Alaska Native culture and/or communities?
  • Creativity and originality (0-10 points): Is the submission an original production? Is it inspiring, interesting, and/or thought-provoking? 
  • Impact (0-10 points): What is the story or statement? Does the submission provoke thoughts surrounding the audience’s own resiliency against substance misuse?
  • Overall impression (0-10 points): Is the video of good quality? Are all group members active participants? 

Basis Upon Which Community Project Proposals Will Be Evaluated:

  • Innovation (0-10 points): Does the submission provide creative, novel ways to prevent and fight substance misuse in AI/AN communities? Does the project capitalize on community strengths?
  • Impact (0-10 points): Does the plan identify an AI/AN community need and address it? Has the group consulted with community members? Who will benefit from the project?  
  • Feasibility (0-10 points): Does the plan make it clear how a community would implement the project and reach their goals? What is the timeline? Is the budget within reason and representative of the project needs? 
  • Infrastructure (0-10 points): Does the plan indicate what tools and supports are necessary to carry out the plan? Are these tools and supports evidenced in this group?


NIDA may award individual prizes up to $10,000 each depending on the judge’s overall score, considering video creativity, adherence to the theme, project innovation, budget scope/appropriateness, and potential for impact.  Any submission selected for award will receive a minimum of $2000. This way, prizes could be used to implement these programs, though this is not a requirement of the challenge. The winning names, titles of submissions, and videos will be posted on the NIDA and We R Native websites and social media accounts. The award approving official for the Challenge is the Director of NIDA.

Prizes awarded under this Challenge will be paid by electronic check transfer, therefore group leaders or individuals participating solo must have a valid bank account. In the case of submissions from group leaders or individuals participating solo who are under 18 years of age at the time of submission, the prize will be paid to the leader’s or individual’s parent or legal guardian who provided signed permission to participate in the Challenge. Prizes awarded under this Challenge may be subject to Federal income taxes; NIH/NIDA will comply with the Internal Revenue Service reporting requirements, where applicable.

NIH/NIDA reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to (a) cancel, suspend, or modify the Challenge, or any part of it, for any reason, and/or (b) not award any prizes if no entries are deemed worthy.

Statutory Authority to Conduct the Challenge: NIDA is conducting this Challenge under the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Reauthorization Act of 2010, as amended [15 U.S.C. § 3719]. The general purpose of NIDA is to conduct and support biomedical and behavioral research, health-services research, research training, and health-information dissemination with respect to the prevention of drug abuse and the treatment of drug abusers. This Challenge is consistent with and advances the mission of NIDA as described in 42 U.S.C. 285o in that it seeks to identify intervention strategies to combat drug addiction.

Contact Information

Challenge email: NIDAAIANArtChallenge@nida.nih.gov

Jenna Murray
Fellow, Native American Program
National Institute on Drug Abuse


 Kathy Etz, Ph.D.
Director, Native American Program
National Institute on Drug Abuse