Over the summer, Chandler-Gilbert Community College awarded five members from the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) small business certificates as part of a joint effort to educate tribal members on becoming successful entrepreneurs on the reservation. The program is part of the GRIC's Career Pathways program, a tribal program that helps connect members to job training, education and employment.
David Johnson, 26, a computer programming student at CGCC and member of the GRIC, is one of the five members to receive a small business certificate. With hopes of someday running his own video game design company, Johnson initially enrolled in the program to find a job on the reservation. Ten months later, he has secured a job as a video and graphics trainee and is preparing to launch his video game business.
"The Career Pathways small business program taught me so much about running my own company and connected me to so many influential people who want to help me succeed," said Johnson. "Prior to this program, I had little to no knowledge about what it truly meant to be a business owner. Now I feel confident talking to others in the business community about my own desire to run a video game company and have the foundation to get me started."
Career Pathways is a grant-based system funded by the U.S. Department of Labor that inspires and supports educational opportunities for adults on the reservation. The program is combined with on-the-job training to get participants into the workforce. In 2012, the GRIC Employment & Training Department was awarded a $3.1 million federal grant to run Career Pathways and provide free tuition for student programs. Career Pathways operates five vocational sectors including medical, construction, business, hospitality and government.
Johnson, along with his classmates in the business sector took classes for 10 months in the areas of accounting, business, finance and marketing while learning how to develop their own business plan.
The program uses an accredited curriculum from CGCC's business school so students would finish with a nationally recognized small business certification; however, the coursework was tailored to fit the individual needs of its students.
Lynette Clark, the Career Pathways Business Sector Specialist at Gila River, worked closely with members of the GRIC and CGCC to develop a curriculum that was unique for students on the reservation. As such, it emphasizes the value education, of learning essential life skills and the importance of reinvesting in one’s own community. Ultimately the program hopes to see its students’ success also translate to tribal success through their efforts to give back.
"This program is designed to motivate students and provide them with the necessary tools to succeed. Whether or not the students pursue their business of interest, they will go forward with the knowledge they learned in this program and can apply it to further their education and move up in the workforce," said Clark. "Chandler-Gilbert Community College has been a great partner and has been very accommodating to our tribal needs. We hope to continue this partnership and to help other interested entrepreneurs."
Johnson hopes that other tribal members take advantage of opportunities such as the Career Pathways Program. "I have met so many wonderful people as a result of this program, and hope one day I can give back to those who helped pave the way for my dreams. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity."
Following the completion of his associate's degree at CGCC, Johnson plans to attend Arizona State University to pursue his bachelor's degree in computer programming and astronomy. For more information on the small business certificate program at CGCC visit www.cgc.maricopa.edu/Academics/business/Pages/Small-Business-Start-Up.aspx