Announcing the 2017 Gen-I Career Success Fellows

As part of Generation Indigenous (Gen-I), the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) and the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA) have selected the inaugural class of Gen-I Career Success Fellows. 

Through the partnership, CNAY is helping to connect their Gen-I National Native Youth Network with NAFOA’s network of leaders in finance, business, and tribal economic development to build career opportunities for Native American youth through online skill building, leadership development, and direct connections with employers.

In November 2016, Native American youth ages 18 – 24 were invited to participate in the online Native American Career Success Academy (NACSA) program. The NACSA curriculum includes two courses, personal finance and career preparation. Students who completed the online NACSA curriculum were invited to apply to the Gen-I Career Success Fellowship program.

From April 23-25, 2017, fellows will participate in seminars led by inspirational Native professionals who will help them advance their new skill set and prepare them for the job market at the inaugural Gen-I Career Leadership Summit preceding NAFOA’s 35th Annual Conference in San Francisco. The Leadership Summit will include special Gen-I networking events and luncheons, career development opportunities with conference participants, and special presentations.

For more information about the program and partnership please visit or contact Teddy McCullough at


Kapena Baptista, Kanaka Maoli
Harvard University, 2016
Age: 22

“I imagine a world where Native youth have access to the best educational facilities and resources; are properly cared for in their physical, mental and spiritual health; are not limited by their economic means to pursue their dreams; and be role models for future generations of Native Youth.”

Jaimie Cruz, Squaxin Island Tribe 
South Puget Sound Community College, 2018
Age: 24

“I am interested in the future of my people because my ancestors thought of me while making decisions. I believe it is important to ensure the next generations are informed and have the tools needed to grow.”

Lala Forrest, Pit River Tribe 
University of California San Diego, 2016
Age: 23

“Tribal economic development is extremely important for native people, for it permits the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty, unemployment, and infrastructural deficiencies.”

Mariah Gladstone, Blackfeet and Cherokee 
Columbia University, 2015
Age: 23

“Economic development in Indian Country is essential to self-determination and exercise of our jurisdictional authority on our lands. If indigenous nations cannot care for our own people, true sovereignty remains unrealized.”

Alana Laanui, Native Hawai
University of Portland, 2017
Age: 21

"Native Hawaiians continue to have the highest incarceration rates and lowest education rates; these problems could be mitigated with financial stability. My interest in this problem prompted me to study political science in order to get a deeper understanding of how fiscal policy can close economic gaps amongst Native populations.”

Keith Martinez, Oglala Sioux 
Villanova University, 2016
Age: 23
“I believe that if tribes can create a strong economic system they can then increase infrastructure particularly around education. I am and have always been a strong advocate for improving education systems in tribal communities.”

Taylor Miller, Navajo
 Duke University, 2018
Age: 23
“There has been resistance to tribal economic development because of the idea that it challenges cultural identity, but tribal citizens are no strangers to change and obstacles. In order to cope with this change, tribes must be willing to evolve. The critical point is, tribes can exercise sovereignty to dictate how they want the economy to run and thrive.”