NEW YORK, NY - USA Network, in partnership with its distributors, announced Aug. 10 the 2015 USA Unites Award recipients who are improving lives and strengthening their communities.
Kayla Dawn Begay is one of 10 people recognized for their exemplary efforts to champion a multitude of issues affecting their local communities, from promoting equality and fighting injustice to creating opportunities for those in need.
"From confronting social justice issues, to providing youth and adults with greater opportunities to learn and succeed, each of the unsung heroes being recognized is working diligently to make their communities safer, stronger, and more unified," said Mac Budill, president, NBCUniversal TV Networks Distribution. "We are proud to continue our partnership with our distributors to recognize all of the incredible work these leaders accomplish."
Begay is a Diné woman from the community of Navajo, New Mexico. She is Tódích'íi'nii (Bitter Water Clan) born for Táchii'nii (Red Running into the Water Clan). Growing up on the Navajo reservation, Begay, co-founder of Dził Ditł'ooí School of Empowerment, Action and Perseverance (DEAP), saw firsthand the astounding effects of an inadequate educational system.
Her upbringing on the reservation has served as the catalyst to her unrelenting desire to serve her local community. With failing schools plaguing the Navajo Nation for years, Begay sought advanced educational opportunities and left home to attend a private prep school in Connecticut, followed by her admittance into college in California. During her time away from the reservation, Begay realized her growing desire to give back to her local community in a way that would have a positive, lasting effect.
She joined Teach for America, where she chose to teach at her childhood elementary school, fully immersing herself in improving education on the reservation.
After completing a fellowship at the Native American Community Academy in Albuquerque, Begay won approval from the state to open her own charter school, and began laying the foundation for what would become DEAP. The grade school, scheduled to open in September, will focus on college and career readiness through an indigenous core of Navajo empowerment, experiential learning through agriculture, wellness, community leadership, and service learning.
USA Network and the distributors will pay tribute to the award winners on-air in a public service announcement, online at usaunites.com and on social media. Each honoree will be acknowledged during hometown award ceremonies and will receive $5,000 grants from USA Network and its participating distributors to support their projects or related nonprofit organizations.