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Native American Students Learn Entrepreneurial Skills at Arizona State University

Native American students from the Salt River Community attended a four-day business course.
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17-year-old Jose Martinez wants to give back to his Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, so he has made education a major goal in his life. He recently furthered that mission by attending the YES Academy at Arizona State University (ASU) with 19 of his peers.

“I actually plan on coming to ASU and majoring in law with a minor in political science,” Martinez said. His goal is to specialize in American Indian law so he can fulfill his desire to give back to his community by serving on the community council.

The YES Academy, an intensive four-day program hosted by the American Indian Policy Institute (AIPI), puts students to work on "generating ideas and solutions, understanding and addressing challenges and opportunities and developing business plans that support the long-term sustainability of their community," said Fonda Walters, AIPI senior management research analyst, in the ASU release.

Martinez and his team worked on plans a full-service bank in the community. “Because it is located within the community and is operated by community members, they would understand your financial needs,” Martinez said.

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Last year when Martinez attended the YES Academy for the first time he learned about sustainability and how to pitch a business. His team worked on a reservation restaurant powered by solar panels that would serve healthy Native American and Mexican food.

Not all plans focus on business, some preserve tribal culture. Maleena Deer, 16, and her team are planning to teach Native American languages on DVDs, online and in classrooms.

“We feel you have a right to know your own language,” Deer said. “There are a lot of cultures that are fading because they don’t know their own languages.”

Read the full story from Arizona State University.