Peyton Swallow follows in her grandparent’s footsteps

January 05, 2022

Written By: Michelle Pawelski

Posted In: Elevate Magazine

Last year, Peyton Swallow walked beside her grandparents Melidie and Victor. It was a memorial walk to remember the children who died at the Rapid City Indian Boarding School. This year, she walked once again, but there was a new face she was remembering.

Her grandmother died earlier this year, but Peyton continues to carry her in her heart, along with a small piece of advice her grandmother often said: one small act of kindness can change the world.

“My grandma has always been a really good person at heart and she always encouraged me to help others,” said Peyton. “She’s like you can help other people just by spreading information and awareness. I have just always looked up to her, so I always wanted to make her proud, and I feel like the work I am doing is making her proud.”

Swallow is a junior at Central High School. At only 16, she has already made an impact on her peers and her community through her involvement.

Peyton was only in middle school when Rapid City Area Schools youth engagement coordinator Kristin Kiner introduced her to Take ACTion. Through skits and short films, the students start a conversation about uncomfortable topics such as human trafficking and dating violence, Peyton explained. “We do it in a creative way where we get to act it out and put it in real scenarios that other teens might be able to understand and possibly relate to. Not everybody is comfortable starting that type of conversation, but it is a conversation that needs to be had.”

The group has presented to students in Rapid City, Martin, Spearfish and Douglas.

Once a quiet, shy teen, Peyton quickly began to find her voice. “Take ACTion really brought me out of my shell.” 

In January 2020, Peyton joined the Rapid City Youth City Council, eventually becoming the chairperson of the cultural relations committee.  “One of our goals is to be a voice for the voices that aren’t heard. As youth, we collaboratively voice our opinion and our ideas that we think other youth would agree on.” 

Peyton’s Native American culture has always been a big part of her life so as chairperson she has strived to not only share her traditions, but also learn about the cultures of her peers. “Rapid City is so diverse, so we want to be open about everybody’s cultures. I think it is important for youth to have a place where they feel comfortable and accepted.”

As the leader of the cultural relations committee, Peyton encouraged her peers and community members to participate in the Remember the Children, a memorial walk remembering the children who died at the Rapid City Indian Boarding School. While Peyton did not have her grandmother this year, her grandfather walked by her side. 

In addition to Take ACTion and Rapid City Youth City Council, Peyton is also the youth liaison for Communities that Care, a community-owned prevention system proven to reduce youth health and behavior problems.

“There is definitely a lot of opportunities where I get to express how I feel and how my other friends feel. I think it is important you get the youth’s input for the issues that concern them.” 

Peyton said she has developed lifelong skills through her community and school involvement, including being able to raise her voice to issues she feels strongly about. “Over the years, I have been able to open up and share my voice and be able to talk in front of a lot of people and that is something I will take with me for the rest of my life. And it will be useful because it is nice to have your voice heard.” 

Her grandmother would certainly be proud.