While a college education can provide a clear path to a successful future, for many, high fees coupled with low incomes too often mean that a college degree is simply out of reach. Currently only 14% of American Indians have a college degree—less than half the national average. The American Indian College Fund’s scholarship programs can make a college education possible for Native American students, equipping them with the tools and experience needed to create new opportunities and to give back to their communities. Thanks to the ongoing support of Arizona Public Service (APS), the path to college is now wide open for deserving members of the Navajo Nation.
APS granted $100,000 to the American Indian College Fund to continue its Arizona Public Service Foundation Navajo Scholars Program, which was established in 2010. Since its inception, the program has awarded 126 scholarships and just under $1 million ($916,000) in scholarship funds to Navajo students pursuing majors in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) or related fields at Navajo Nation-serving tribal and mainstream colleges and universities in Arizona and New Mexico. This year’s 15 APS Foundation Navajo Scholarship recipients will be attending the following universities this fall, including tribal colleges Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, Diné College, and Navajo Technical University; and mainstream colleges and universities Arizona State University, Mesa Community College, San Juan College, University of New Mexico – Albuquerque, and Utah Valley University.
The goal of the program is to create a brighter future for Native communities in Arizona and New Mexico by providing the financial means to attend college to Navajo STEM students who will help to revitalize the economic, social, and cultural fabric of the Navajo Nation and beyond.
Each scholar participating in the program is required to complete 15 hours of community service for a project of their choosing in their college or local community. Last year, Arizona Public Service Foundation Navajo Scholars provided nearly 300 community service hours to businesses and events in Native communities throughout Arizona and New Mexico.
Brandon Whitehorse is a second-year civil engineering technology major at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona. He is taking prerequisite classes to earn an associate of science degree in civil engineering technology and plans to transfer to Duke University or the University of Utah to earn a bachelor’s degree upon graduation. Whitehorse says, “The scholarship will help me with my education endeavors, making me a person that I always wanted to become: an educated and strong Navajo civil engineer. Scholarships for Native Americans are very helpful, it opens greater opportunities for Native Americans students to make their dreams a reality.”
“The APS Navajo Scholarship Program is changing lives,” says Tina Marie Tentori, Executive Director of the APS Foundation. “These scholarships are making a very real and tangible difference and giving Navajo students the education and the skills they need to make their communities better places to live and work.”