New Mexico Public Service Company honors training program graduates

FARMINGTON — The Public Service Company of New Mexico has recognized 15 students who received scholarships from its Navajo Nation Workforce Training Initiative and who are graduating this semester from San Juan College or the Navajo Technical University.

Among those honored on May 10 was Navajo Technical University student Lyle Ben, who will receive an associate’s degree in construction technology on May 13 from Crownpoint University.

“It meant a lot to me because I paid for my education most of the time through studying or working on campus and with this scholarship it helped me pay most of my student bills. So nothing came out of my pocket,” Ben says of the scholarship.

He explained that he hopes to one day own a construction business in the Navajo Nation, but his immediate goal is to enter the workforce.

The scholarship program began in 2013 when PNM committed $1 million to be spread over five years to help Navajo students earn certificates, associate’s degrees, or bachelor’s degrees in energy-related careers in the United States. one or other of the schools.

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PNM extended the program in 2019 for another five years with a commitment of $500,000. Students can apply and qualify for the scholarship for more than one semester.

“It warms our hearts every year to be a part of your accomplishments,” said Cathy Newby, director of tribal government and customer engagement at PNM, of the 15 students who were honored at the reception at the San Juan College School of Energy.

Navajo Technical University student Lyle Ben, center, stands with his mother, Alicia Ben, left, and father Lawrence Ben, right, and NTU President Elmer Guy, far right, during the May 10 graduation ceremony in Farmington to recognize fellows under the New Mexico Public Service Navajo Nation Workforce Training Initiative.

After a land reconnaissance to recognize the indigenous people who once resided in the area where San Juan College now stands, College President Toni Hopper Pendergrass spoke about the partnership with PNM.

“Over the years, the PNM Navajo Nation Workforce initiative has helped our students obtain the training and education necessary for a prosperous future,” Pendergrass said. She said it also provides the community with a well-trained workforce.

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Navajo Technical University enrollment director Delores Becenti, left, introduces students who will graduate from NTU and have received scholarships under the nation's workforce training initiative Navajo PNM on May 10 at the San Juan College School of Energy in Farmington.

Navajo Technical University President Elmer Guy credited PNM’s investment with helping put students on an education path to develop skills to enter and expand the workforce. local work.

“We are developing our own,” Guy said.

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When the program was created in 2013, there was a vision to train the Navajo people, said tribal chairman Jonathan Nez.

“Your degree, your degree carries a great responsibility. … Because you are equipped to fight for the sustainability of our language, our culture, our way of life,” Nez said.

It was the first time a joint ceremony had been hosted by the two institutions to recognize graduates and it was also the first in-person since the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to such events.

Navajo Technical University student Jared Pino checks the backpack he received May 10 in Farmington from the New Mexico Public Service Company at a reception to recognize his graduation and participation to the PNM Navajo Nation Workforce Training Initiative.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for the Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at [email protected]

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