Jolyana Begay-Kroupa (Navajo) is originally from Ts’iłdiilyesiitah (Rabbitbrush) near Fort Defiance, Arizona. Passionate about language, Jolyana is an advocate for language revitalization. She joined the Phoenix Indian Center in 2005 as a consultant, leading language and culture programming. Now, she is the Director of Development at the Phoenix Indian Center.
Operating since 1947, The Phoenix Indian Center is the oldest, American Indian nonprofit of its kind in the United States. Through providing services in exemplary employment, educational cultural enrichment, and community engagement services, the center annually serves 7,000 individuals. Jolyana is particularly interested in developing programs aimed to help high school students graduate and also provide them with opportunities to connect to their heritage through language and culture.
With upcoming elections and the census response deadline fast approaching, Jolyana says the center is essential in providing resources and information to ensure community members are educated, “We continue to find ways to be active and really try to reach our community despite all of these barriers that continue to present themselves. Many in our community are focused on making ends meet, that they don’t always have time to think about what’s happening, so our role is to help bridge those connections and to keep them informed as best we can.”
As COVID-19 has created significant barriers in organizing efforts, the Phoenix Indian Center has made strides in reaching members through social media, calling past and current customers, and has partnered with NVN member organizations Native Americans for Community Action (NACA) and the National Urban Indian Family Coalition (NUIFC) for census and voter education efforts.
Jolyana says that NVN has provided a system of support and encouragement throughout the past few years, “There’s this huge sense of empowerment that happens every time we get to hear what other organizations are doing. Sometimes it feels like the hill is just getting higher and higher. But when we get together with NVN, I realize, together we are making strides!”
Apart from gaining a support system, NVN has also provided a space for the center to learn from other organizations, “There’s more and more organizations coming together. And that’s really beneficial because you get to hear what others are doing, and what’s working or not working. And if there’s a particular project that a member organization is working on, it can be brought to our own community but can be tweaked for our community’s specific needs.”