Category: Awards

Young CEO Receives Leadership Award

Nikishna Polequaptewa, 35, has recently been awarded the Young Executive Leadership Award by the Hastings Review, awarded to the nation’s most promising emerging entrepreneurs and business people under the age of 45 years old.

The award was presented at the Dallas Marriott City Center Hotel in Dallas, Texas on Friday, January 12, 2018. The awards dinner and ceremony began at 7:30pm. “I am very grateful to have my work recognized by the Hastings Review. Thank you to the committee for selecting me for this year’s Young Executive Leadership Award, Polequaptewa stated. “I am working on a book detailing my life and the struggles I overcame to get where I am today. I hope that it will serve as a guide for other young people who come from similar circumstances and dream of something more.”

Earl Chetterling, President of the Board of Directors for the Hastings Review and Chair of the award’s Selection Committee stated, “we were honored to review and select Nikishna Polequaptewa’s work in the public and private sector. The obstacles he has had to overcome were tremendous and it is nothing short of a miracle that he has had this type of success so far. We wish him well in expanding his work and know that he is on a great trajectory.

Young Hopi businessman receives national honors

Polequaptewa strives to help Native American students

IRVINE, Calif. – Nikishna Polequaptewa has recently received two new honors to add to a growing list. At only 27, that list is impressive, but it hasn’t gone to his head. He continues to work towards his life-long goal of helping other Native American students rise up to reach their own dreams.

Most recently, Polequaptewa was gifted with an American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Sequoyah Fellowship, and participated in the blessing ceremony at the National Conference in Portland, Ore. Polequaptewa was also named as one of 40 young existing and emerging Native American leaders to receive the National Center for American Indian Development’s (NCAID) “Native American 40 Under 40” awards.

Nikishna receives AISES Sequoyah Fellowship Medal
Nikishna receives AISES Sequoyah Fellowship Medal

An AISES Sequoyah Fellow is a lifetime member of AISES,” said April Armijo, AISES Information Services Coordinator. “Many individuals purchase a Sequoyah Fellowship for themselves and then go onto gifting one to another.”

Nikishna’s was sponsored by Todd Ambo, an engineer at 3M from the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation, who was also gifted last year in Anaheim. An AISES Sequoyah Fellow is regarded as a representative members of AISES who supports the organization to overcome obstacles and achieve immeasurable growth and success.

Armijo shared Ambo’s reasoning.

“He’s a great role model and has overcome many trials and tribulations,” Ambo said. “[Nikishna] is a young and very inspiring person and I believe that he will accomplish many great things for native people in the future.”

Indeed, Polequaptewa has faced adversity. His mother abandoned him as a baby, and was forced into a series of foster homes when his father went to prison. But this hasn’t stopped this industrious young Hopi from creating his own future.

“I was really surprised to learn that I’d been sponsored for the Sequoyah Fellowship,” Polequaptewa said. “And as for the 40

Under 40 award – I was the only individual in Education to win this award. It was pretty neat to receive it – NCAID is the oldest nationwide organization of its kind, and this is the first time they’ve offered [it.]”

A string of achievements prove this 27-year-old member of the Badger and Spider Clans is moving forward at a rapid pace. He credits a strong identification with his Hopi people as well as his desire to help other young people for driving him forward.

Polequaptewa currently serves as the Director of the American Indian Resource Program (AIRP) of the University of California, Irvine, where he is able to live his dream of helping Native American students attain higher education.

“Our main project is an American Indian Summer Institute in Computer Sciences, which is an intensive summer residential program, primarily funded by the National Science Foundation,” he said.

“We take eighth grade students going into ninth grade and 11th grade students going into 12th grade from all over the country. We pay for everything – transportation, housing, food, books, and entertainment.”

Young people interested in attending the program should go to; applications should be submitted in January.

“This project is unique in that we don’t base attendance on a student’s grade point average,” Polequaptewa said. “We base our selection totally on their essay on why … they want to come to our camp.”

Further, students who don’t have a census number are not rejected; rather, they are accepted on a self-identification basis.

“Ninety-five percent of our students go on to attend great universities-even if their grade point average was only 1.9 when they came to us,” Polequaptewa said. “We serve students from kindergarten through PhD candidates. We help students be eligible for the right tests and to get into the college of their choice. Once there, we work on retention.”

Polequaptewa and his colleagues are there to support students through the challenges and frustrations that face young American Indian students-including overcoming boarding school experiences that often offer little in the way of preparing students to be self-sufficient young adults who will attend college off-reservation.

“We didn’t start this program without the help of others,” Polequaptewa said. “A key organization is the Center for Educational Partnerships, which provides us with free office space and supplies.

Polequaptewa intends to spend the second half of his life at Hopi.

“Ever since I was little, I wanted to serve as the Hopi Tribal Chairman,” Polequaptewa continued. “I want to serve in the best capacity possible, with valuable resources to bring to the Tribe.”

Polequaptewa said that his plan is to serve his people-and by becoming financially stable should he achieve his goal of Chairman.

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NCAIED Recognizes 40 under 40

The winners ranged from practicing attorneys to business entrepreneurs to medical doctors

MESA, Ariz. – In celebration of their 40th anniversary year, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) will honor 40 existing and emerging American Indian professionals under the age of 40 at the black-tie Native American 40 Under 40 Recognition Reception to be held at this year’s Indian Progress in Business Event (INPRO) in Tulsa, OK, on September 18.

New to INPRO this year, the “Native American 40 Under 40” award winners are young American Indian professionals from across the nation who has demonstrated leadership, initiative, and dedication to achieve impressive and significant contributions in their businesses, communities, and to Indian Country.

The Native American 40 were nominated and selected based on their demonstration of leadership, initiative and dedication in propelling native businesses and communities towards further progress throughout Indian Country.

The 2009 winners ranged from practicing attorneys to business entrepreneurs to medical doctors. The winners had to be nominated for the award and then selected by a panel of representatives from the NCAIED. This is the first year that the NCAIED has awarded the 40 under 40 honors.

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Staff member wins ‘Native American 40 Under 40′ honor

Nikishna Polequaptewa, director of the American Indian Resource Program at UC Irvine, has been selected for “Native American 40 Under 40″ recognition by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. The honor, new this year, is reserved for outstanding young Native Americans who have distinguished themselves in their community and/or profession. Recipients will be feted at a special reception prior to the Indian Progress in Business awards banquet Sept. 18 in Tulsa, Okla. A Hopi tribe member, Polequaptewa graduated from UCI in 2005 and earned the campus’s 2008 Living Our Values Award for his efforts to “create an American Indian presence on campus and in the community.”


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