The University of Arizona's Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy has kicked off its 13th annual Native American Youth Entrepreneur Camp, a program that teaches high school students from across the country how to start and manage a business in their communities.
The camp recruits Native American juniors, seniors and recent graduates, and this year it hosts nearly 30 students, who learn the basics of economics, computer skills and business-plan preparation.
The camp runs through July 25.
"Economic conditions on many of our Indian reservations are bleak, with a minimal or nonexistent private sector," said Joan Timeche, a citizen of the Hopi Tribe and executive director of the Native Nations Institute.
"By exposing our Native youth to the world of entrepreneurship, we offer them a chance to expand the business sector on reservations and to improve economic conditions in the future," Timeche added.
This year, the camp features the success the story of its featured speaker, Jesika Garrett, a citizen of the Cheyenne River Tribe. Garrett graduated from the camp last year and has since started "Detail Express," an auto-detailing business that is now turning a profit for the 18-year-old entrepreneur.
The camp gives its students the opportunity to run their own mock businesses during the Youth Marketplace, where they sell products or services to the general public.
The Youth Marketplace will be held on Wednesday, July 22 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Pasqua Yaqui Courtyard, located at 7474 S. Camino De Oeste.
The students further develop their skills during the camp's Business Plan Showcase, which provides students the opportunity to present a real business plan to a panel of venture capitalists.
Timeche, who has focused her work on strategic economic development training and outreach programs, sees the camp and the private support it receives from tribal sponsors as a small investment that can have a tremendous benefit to Native American communities.
"These kids have such great ideas and enthusiasm," Timeche said. "All we are doing is giving them the tools and the confidence to help their business dreams grow into an economic reality."
The Native Nations Institute, founded in 2001 by the Morris K. Udall Foundation and the UA, is an administrative unit of the UA Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy and serves as a self-determination, governance and development resource for indigenous nations.