New Mexico Nonprofits, Tribe Unite to Empower Native Youth Leaders, Entrepreneurs


Inspiring ambition in youth often boils down to exposure to the right role models, resources and encouraging environments.

An upcoming summit in New Mexico will connect Native youth with tribal leaders and successful Native business owners. Students will have the opportunity to network with tribal and community partners and access to resources that can lead to scholarships, mentorships, internships and jobs.

The Native American Youth Empowerment Symposium (NYES) takes place Wednesday, March 27, at Isleta Resort & Casino in Isleta, New Mexico. It’s hosted by the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of New Mexico (AICCNM) in collaboration with Tiwa Lending Services and the Pueblo of Isleta.

“There is a strong need to restore a sense of hope for our future generation in order to empower them to take on leadership roles in the community and assume the roles in a creative, innovative, collaborative, fearless and compassionate manner,” the AICCNM states. “The best way we can accomplish this is by bridging the gap in society between the youth and leadership in the community.”

NYES will give students (from eight grade to sophomores in college) insight to the success that exists within New Mexico’s Tribal communities and city and state at large. At NYES, students will learn about financial literacy, entrepreneurship, professional development, media and IT careers. They will also attend an education and career fair with representatives from tribal and New Mexico universities and colleges, and military recruiters. “This is an opportunity for students to find various resources and information all in one location,” said Russell Pedro, Business Development Specialist at the AICCNM.

“We hope to promote, motivate and encourage networking, leadership and entrepreneurship to help students find their passions to make a difference in our communities,” Pedro added. The symposium will help kick off National Financial Literacy Month in April. Tiwa Lending Services, a community development financial institution that assists Isleta Pueblo members with low-interest home and credit-builder loans, will host real-time financial education activities involving budget simulations, games and activities designed to provide experiential learning for local Native youth. “The key to financial independence is financial literacy,” said Sheila Herrera, Tiwa Lending Services Executive Director. Educational and business booths, and sponsorships are still available. To register or for more information, go to www.aiccnm.com.

The list of participating speakers and panelists is nothing short of impressive:

Speaker & Panelist Listing - Youth Empowerment Sessions

• Governor J. Robert Benavides - Pueblo of Isleta
• Tony Dearman, Director - Bureau of Indian Education
• Shawn Spruce, Programs Consultant - First Nations Development Institute
• Christopher Hansen, Programs Officer - First Nations Oweesta Corporation
• Heather Romero, Financial Aid Manager - NM Higher Education Program
• Sherrie Bowman, Scholarship Coordinator - AIANTA
• Ted Garcia, Director / Scholarship Relations - NM Gas Company
• Maureen Zagone, Project Manager - Souder Miller & Associates
• Patricia Georges, WIOA Adult & Dislocated Worker Program
• Concha Cordova, WIOA Youth Program
• Sue Buffington, CNM - NM Information Technology Apprenticeship Program
• Tawnya Roland, Program Director - TechHire NM
• Raylene Swan, Fiduciary Trust, Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST)
• Shad Adair, Owner - Shadmeister Productions
• Clifton Chadwick, National Underwriting & Sales Director - Koahnic Broadcast Corporation
• Ryan Begay, Owner - Sovereign Mind Productions, LLC
• Kim Baca, Owner - KB Consultants Marketing & Communications
• Larryl Lynch, Publisher - Albuquerque the Magazine
• Vic Berniklau, Certified Mentor - SCORE NM
• Ken Jackson, Certified Mentor - SCORE NM
• Tim Borrer, Business Owner - Sierra Hacienda Builders
• Rick Mondick, Owner - Distar
• Cynthia Jarvison, Director - Small Business Development Center - Gallup
• Cabinet Secretary Kelly Zunie - State of New Mexico Indian Affairs Department
• Shelia Herrera, Director - TIWA Lending Services
• Russell F. Pedro, Business Development Specialist - AICCNM / MBDA

Education & Career Fair Participants

• Dine College
• National Indian Youth Council (NIYC)
• Central New Mexico Community College
• NB3 Foundation
• Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute
• New Mexico Higher Education Department
• Pueblo of Isleta - Higher Education Program
• Northern New Mexico College
• College Horizons, Inc.
• Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA)
• American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC)
• Bureau of Indian Affairs - SW Region
• American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association
• Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa
• Sierra Hacienda Builders, LLC
• Souder Miller & Associates
• Sabio Systems
• Workforce Connection of Central New Mexico
• The Leadership Institution - Summer Policy Academy
• Grand Canyon University
• NM Gas Company - Scholarship Program
• Molina Healthcare
• Service Academy Nominations