Vassar Quarterly - Spring 2018 - 33
Previous spread: Junction ruin at Canyon de Chelly.
Clockwise from top left: SCA students, leaders, and
NPS staff. Waterfall near Canyon de Chelly ruins.
The crew traverses the rocky terrain in souped-up
ATVs. Eric Beringause '80 and Michael Prior '86
on a 2016 visit to the canyon. SCA crew members
clear fallen brush.
deal with the NTUA. The deal was structured
so that the NTUA eventually became the
owners of the business, with ATNI providing
management services. "This is pretty rare,"
says Prior. "Essentially, we were able to help
them take part in standing up a new business
that they now own, adding employees, adding
stores, providing new services, providing
competition. Now, about 98 percent of the
employees are Navajo, and lots of good things
happened as part of the project."
The first year Beringause reached out to
Prior, Beringause was in a quandary-he had
less than two weeks to pull together the funds
so they could hire the students. "In the kind
of business we're in, you need to find ways to
connect to your community, which includes
charitable giving," says Prior. "Normally we
like a little time to do our 'due diligence,' but
because of the Vassar connection, I said okay.
We'll promise you [funding] this year and do
our due diligence after the fact."
In 2016, Prior and Beringause visited the
canyon together while the program was in
operation. Liz Putnam had planned to go
as well but had to cancel at the last minute.
"It was nice to see," says Prior. "There's just
nothing like seeing those high school
students doing that job. They were a special
group of kids."
Hunter, who plans to retire from the
National Park Service soon, is a little
concerned about the future of the program.
"We've just had some great kids, and a great
variety of kids," he says. "Every year we
have a potluck with the families. This is a
time when the families and the kids come
together and, of course, they share their
experiences with their families. They talk
about how it changed their lives, and what
they want to do in life now, and what they
want to do for the environment, and what
they want to do for their homeland. These
are the things they talk about."
Beringause is hopeful that some sort
of endowment can be created to put the
program on a more stable footing. "Eric has
really become involved in this program,"
says Hunter. "He brings the donors out
here to see the crew. He enjoys it. I think he
enjoys it so much that he wants other people
to experience it, too."
"It's just a different world," says Beringause.
"This is my way of paying back a little bit for
the great time I had there and the kindness
they all showed me."
VA S S A r Q U A r T E r LY