It’s time to introduce you to KGUN 9’s Giving Project nonprofit for the month of February: the Native American Advancement Foundation.

It’s an organization formed 14 years ago by members of the Tohono O’odham Nation. From the classroom to its garden, the foundation helps strengthen the native community through a variety of programs on tribal lands.

Selina Jesus was born and raised in the GuVo community on the Tohono O’odham Nation.

“I know the hardships that our people face, the barriers that are there, and as a nonprofit organization we want to break those barriers,” Jesus tells me. “We want to provide the service for our people.”

Jesus is currently the Senior Director of Programs at the Native American Advancement Foundation (NAAF). She helped start the nonprofit in 2011.

Program offerings through NAAF are broadranging from a farm site in the village of Ali Chugk that grows traditional crops, to health planning and diabetes preventionJesus emphasizes the organization’s focus on education.

“Education is always number one,” reflects Jesus.

“Education is Always Number One”

In a very remote part of the Tohono O’odham Nation, the foundation offers a wide range of educational programs to members who can’t make the long drive to Sells.

That includes a highly successful GED program.

“We do have adult students who, or teenage people, that have dropped out of high school that do want to be successful in getting their GED,” says Jesus.

Florine Ortega is one of NAAF’s success stories, completing the GED program several years ago.

“My family, they were so proud of me,” Ortega shares with me. Now, her 5-year-old daughter is taking part in NAAF’s early education program, learning the basics of the O’odham language.

Pat Parris: “It must make you feel good that that continues on and it’s important to have that continue on.” Florine Ortega: “Yes, it is. O’odham language, it is there. I hear her, I talk to her, we discuss it, we go over numbers and basic commands.”

Coming Full Circle

Ortega has now come full circle, Ortega is currently working as an after school program coordinator with NAAF, coming full circle in her education journey.

“Because it benefited me so much and I want that same for everyone else,” says Ortega.

We invite you to make a donation to the Native American Advancement Foundation by visiting their website and clicking the ‘Give Today’ button in the upper righthand corner of the page.

As a reminder, your donation will qualify for Arizona’s charitable tax credit.

Our partners in the Giving Project, the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, will again match the first $500 in donations.