9500-Square Foot Travel Plaza Trains Future Navajo Leaders through Hands-On Mentorship Program While Celebrating Navajo Culture, Cuisine and Architecture
The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise’s (Navajo Gaming) college interns, members of the Navajo Nation, are busy preparing for the launch of Navajo Blue this fall, a world-class travel plaza adjacent to Twin Arrows Casino Resort located off Interstate 40 east of Flagstaff.Navajo Gaming’s innovative “Let’s Build a Business” internship program was created in 2017 to team up Navajo college graduates and students with senior-level mentors in their field of study to provide opportunities to gain real-world experience, facilitate preparation for jobs after graduation and strengthen Navajo Gaming. A group of 17 college graduates and students contributed to the project, – the Navajo Blue Travel Plaza.
“Navajo Gaming is positively impacting future leaders of the Nation through this hands-on opportunity that brings Navajo students back to the Navajo Nation and creates a working environment alongside knowledgeable and experienced mentorsthat include owners of Navajo businesses such as Rock Gap Engineering and Hozho Engineering and key leaders of the projects within Navajo Gaming. These energetic interns have strengthened Navajo Gaming with their talent, perspective and youth,” said Brian Parrish, Navajo Gaming Interim CEO. “We’re grateful for their commitment. Many carry challenging class loads as both graduate and undergraduate students. It has been a tremendous learning experience for both our team and the interns, as we work together to build a successful Navajo business.”
The 23rdNavajo Nation Council approved Síhasin Funds for this project. Working with the 24th Navajo Nation Council, Navajo Gaming enhanced its existing internship program, and developed the “Let’s Build a Business” project. It provides Navajo college students from Diné College, the University of New Mexico (UNM), University of Arizona (UA), Arizona State University (ASU), Northern Arizona University (NAU), Duke University, Mesa Community College and other nearby colleges an unparalleled opportunity.
The Navajo college graduates/student interns include:
Chad Murphy, fromLos Lunas, NM, is a NAU student working on a bachelor’s in Civil Engineering. Murphy focused on grading, the drainage plan and construction of Navajo Blue.
Dalphianna Prettysongs, fromJeddito, AZ, is an ASU graduate in Business Management. She focused on legal contracting and accounting administration for Navajo Blue.
Freeland Livingston, fromChurch Rock, NM, is a student at UNM working on his bachelor’s in Architecture. He focused on the floor plans at Navajo Blue.
Janice Cummings, fromWhitecone, AZ, graduated from NAU with a bachelor’s in Public Administration and is currently working on her masters at NAU in Leadership Development. Cummings focused on Navajo Blue’s New Guest Services Module.
Jennifer Jones, fromFarmington, NM, is an ASU graduate with a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering. She focused on Navajo Blue’s energy management and commission plan.
Kaitlin Edwards, fromTuba City, AZ, is pursuing a bachelor’s in Business Management and Studio Arts at NAU. Edwards focused on Navajo Blue’s marketing and intern budget labor tracking.
Kyle Horace, fromTsaile, AZ, is a student at ASU’s Biochemistry bachelor’s program. He focused on accounting at Navajo Blue.
Kyler Begay, fromWindow Rock, AZ, is a student at NAU’s Computer Science program. He focused onITand AV at Navajo Blue.
Manuel Lopez, fromNazlini, AZ, is a student at ASU working on his bachelor’s in Civil Engineering. He is also an Associate degree graduate from Mesa Community College. Lopez focused on Navajo Blue’s road modifications.
Mike Apachee, fromLupton, AZ, is currently a senior at NAU in Business Marketing and Merchandising. Apachee has taken on the final phases of coordinating the grand opening of Navajo Blue Travel Plaza. Mike is an intern who has been hired full time to serve on the management team for implementation of Navajo Blue’s marketing plan that he helped develop. Apachee focuses on the Navajo Blue marketing plan, operationsstart-up, merchandising and business communications.
Quindrea Yazzie, fromSteamboat AZ, is a graduate from ASU with a bachelor’s in Journalism. She focused on video and audio development management for Navajo Blue.
Raeanna Bahe, fromWhitecone, AZ, is a graduate from ASU with a bachelor’s in Design Studies/Design Management. She focused on Walkway Design for Navajo Blue.
Samantha Zah, the granddaughter of former President Peterson Zah, is a NAU and ASU graduate with a bachelor’s in University Studies and a Masters in Sustainable Solutions. She focused on Navajo Blue’s sustainability framework.
Tasha Preston, fromTuba City, AZ, is a UNM graduate in Architecture who played a key role in engineering and architect honoring the Navajo culture for Navajo Blue.
Taylor Miller, fromUpper Fruitland, NM, is a Duke University graduate in Public and Environmental Policy. She focused on Navajo Blue’s sustainability framework.
Teneah Davis, fromSanders, AZ, is a Diné College student studying Nutrition. She focused on local food sourcing for Navajo Blue.
Tristan Swatts, fromSanders, AZ, is a NAU graduate in biomedical sciences, psychological science and chemistry. He focused on Navajo Blue’s health and safety, permitting, project management, infrastructure and served as intern coordinator.
Quincy Natay, Chairman of the Navajo GamingBoard of Directors, said, “We believe in supporting our Navajo youth through education and real-world experiences. For years our Navajo people have been researching paths and ways to bring our educated youth back to the Nation and I believed this is a positive step in the right direction.”
“The ‘Let’s Build a Business’ project allows Navajo college students from educational institutions in the Four Corners region to learn business theory and entrepreneurialism, with practical application, while contributing to the design, construction and startup operations of the travel plaza – depending on their areas of study,” shared Parrish. “They gain invaluable hands-on experience through both individual and team assignments. This program challenges them beyond the classroom, augments their professional development and positions them for success early in their careers.”
Our hope is that many of the interns choose to return to Navajo land to put their educations and experiences to work at home,” added Parrish.
“We’re grateful to the Navajo Nation Council, the Office of the Navajo President andVice Presidentand to the Leupp Chapter for moving this economic development project forward as together we create more opportunities for Navajo people,” added Natay.
About Navajo Gaming
Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, in less than 10 years, has successfully operated four casinos, created over 7,425 direct, indirect and induced jobs with an overall economic output of over a billion dollars. The award winning AAA’s coveted Four Diamond Twin Arrows Casino Resort shares Navajo culture through architectural nuances and local artists. Each of the property dining establishments feature “Navajo Beef” and traditional cuisine of the Navajo people. An invitation to stay, play and relax at one of our properties is an open welcome to the Navajo Nation’s beautiful scenic transformation.
First row L to R: Jennifer Jones, Taylor Miller, Raeanna Bahe, Teneah Davis, Quindrea Yazzie
Second row L to R: Carmen Tracy, Special Projects Manager NNGE, Tasha Preston, Mary West, Executive Director Development NNGE, Dalphianna Prettysongs, Samantha Zah, Janice Cummings,
Third row L to R: Mike Apachee, Kaitlin Edwards, Chad Murphy, Manuel Lopez, Tristan Swatts
Interns not in photo: Freeland Livingston, Kyle Horace, and Kyler Begay
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