Vassar Quarterly - Spring 2018 - 32
and whatever they need for school-so we
decided to give them a $1,000 stipend."
The first year, they squeezed money out
of the park budget to pay for the program.
"And it was very successful-the first Native
American SCA crew," says Hunter. "Now
there are many, all the way to Alaska, but we
were the first ones." But federal budget cuts
put the program in jeopardy, and Hunter
began to look for donors to keep it going.
When Hunter first brought the program
to his attention, Beringause had never heard
of the Student Conservation Association (SCA)
or its founder, Vassar alumna Elizabeth Titus
Putnam '55, whom he finally met in Seattle
a couple of years ago at an SCA event. But he
agreed to support the program and over the
years has played an increasingly active role
in securing funding.
In a fundraising role, and on a tip from
Natasha Brown, Associate Vice President for
Development and Principal Gifts at Vassar,
Beringause contacted Michael Prior '86, who
already had a connection with the Navajo
Nation. Prior is the CEO of ATN International
(ATNI), a company that specializes in telecommunications investments in remote,
"The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority
(NTUA) contacted us back in 2009 because
they wanted to work with us to build out their
fiber network and to support a wireless network," says Prior. At that point, much of the
reservation didn't have wireless phone service.
ATNI already had a wireless operations
network around the Navajo Nation, but Prior
and his staff found a way to fold it into a new
Ed McCombs / Portrait, courtesy of the subjects
manufacturers of nutritional beverages,
located in Milwaukee. "About six years ago,
Wilson called me up and said, 'We've got this
program called the Student Conservation
Association, and we need funds.'"
A few years earlier, Hunter had reached
out to the Student Conservation Association
to explore the possibility of sponsoring a
native SCA high school crew in the canyon.
"The SCA had never had anything like that,"
Hunter recalls. "These would all be Native
American kids from the Canyon de Chelly
area, but there would be some differences
between our crew and the usual SCA crews.
Our kids are very close to their families,
so we thought maybe they could go home
on weekends. We decided that the program
would have an educational component-
environmental and cultural. We wanted to
educate them about why they were doing
what they were doing. So we talked about
bringing speakers in to talk to them on these
subjects. And they would need money to
cover their expenses-for clothes and books