When Eugene Begay was a senior at Tuba City High School 34 years ago, he asked his teacher, Mike Nesbit, if he thought he was college material. The answer, and some scholarship funds from Northern Arizona University, changed his life.

These days, Begay spends his time with other would-be first generation college students as part of the federally funded Educational Talent Search Program housed at NAU. He is being recognized for his work with the College Success Arizona Star Award.

“I love being able to go back to my reservation and serve my people,” said Begay, who is Navajo. “Knowing how education has empowered me, I help students learn how they can get an education and return to serve their communities.”

Eugene Begay

Eugene Begay is an NAU employee with the Educational Talent Search program.

For 25 years, Begay has traveled throughout the region, spending time with students from 10 high schools, mostly on the Navajo reservation. He offers information on vocational schools, community colleges and 4-year institutions, including NAU.

“Eugene embodies NAU’s commitment to educational access and opportunity. He often shares his personal, inspirational story and is truly a role model,”said Erin Grisham, associate vice president of student affairs. “The award is important because it recognizes a man who goes about his work quietly, while helping young people achieve their educational dreams.”

“Those students never forget Eugene and the difference he made for them during high school and then college,” said Angie Delgadio, a success advisor with College Success America, who chose Begay for its inaugural Arizona Star Award.

NAU partners with College Success America, which supports students through funding and intensive mentoring.

Begay will receive his award Wednesday, Oct. 29 during the College Success America annual fundraising luncheon in Phoenix.