Officials with San Juan College and Public Service Company of New Mexico joined Navajo Nation leaders on Thursday evening at the Henderson Fine Arts Center to honor 46 scholarship recipients.
The students were recognized as part of the PNM Navajo Nation Workforce Training Initiative. The program was established in 2013 to provide $1 million in scholarships to Navajo students over the course of five years to fund education and workforce training for those pursuing jobs in the energy industry.
PNM Scholarships created the program after announcing plans to shut down two of the four units at the San Juan Generating Station in 2017.
The students who received a scholarship through the program. Davis, who is set to graduate in May with an associate degree in welding, said the scholarship helped pay for his tuition, fees, books and welding equipment.
“It also helped pay for my transportation,” Davis said. “I live here in town, but it helps pay for gas and food.”
PNM Scholarships and the tribe worked with San Juan College and Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint to develop the program, which distributes about $200,000 in scholarships annually. Each year, San Juan College receives $114,000, Navajo Technical University gets $77,000 and the PNM American Engineering Program, a summer internship program for Navajo students, receives $10,000. The schools determine the scholarship amounts given to each student, though the average award is about $1,000 per student, said Jodi McGinnis Porter, a PNM spokeswoman.
Last school year was the first time the scholarships were given out. That year, 77 students benefited from the program.
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly was among the people who spoke at Thursday’s reception, along with Ron Darnell, PNM senior vice president for public policy.
Shelly said the PNM scholarships program helps minimize the effects of the unit closures and redirects students to help the Navajo Nation find new ways to stimulate the energy industry.
“These students who studied for a career in the energy sector are a shining hope for the future,” Shelly said. “We must invest in them and their future career.”
Of the 46 students recognized this year, 12 attended the reception and received a certificate from Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland, along with a USB flash drive from PNM. Students graduating next month also received a Pendleton scarf with the PNM and San Juan College logos.
Engineering student Krystal Charley said she felt fortunate to receive the scholarship this year. After graduating from San Juan College, she hopes to attend the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro and continue learning about the petroleum industry.
“Financially, it’s pretty difficult, especially if you pay out of pocket,” said Charley, who is set to graduate in 2016. “The scholarship helps. It’s a huge relief.”
Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times.