NAJA names students, mentors for 2013 Project Phoenix

Posted by Rebecca Landsberry on 07/09/2013

Media Release

Native American Journalists Association

NORMAN, Okla. – The Native American Journalists Association announced mentors for the 2013 Project Phoenix high school student projects to be held July 14-20 at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School for Journalism and Mass Communication in downtown Phoenix, Ariz.

Project Phoenix is made possible this year by a generous contribution from the Ak-Chin Indian Community.

Ten students were accepted into the program for Native American high school students interested in the field of journalism or news media careers to find out what it takes to put together a newspaper and news site.

  • Erin Tapahe, Navajo
  • Monica Sekaquaptewa, Navajo
  • Kenneth Shirley, Navajo
  • Charine Gonzalez, San Ildefonso
  • Ashtin Lewis, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
  • Sienna Waters, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
  • Marcus Stephens, Ak-Chin
  • Christopher Pablo, Ak-Chin
  • Autum Manuel, Ak-Chin
  • Cheyenna Wallen

These students will work together to produce stories for a student newspaper and multimedia projects focused on the local Native American community and tribes in the Phoenix area.

Project Phoenix honors the first Native American newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix, which was first printed in New Echota, Ga., Feb. 21, 1828. It was published in both English and Cherokee using the Cherokee alphabet, making it the first bilingual newspaper in North America.

Mark Dreadfulwater, Cherokee, chairs NAJA’s Education Committee and will lead the 2013 student programs for Project Phoenix and Native Voices, NAJA’s college student program. He currently works for The Cherokee Phoenix, the country’s oldest Native American newspaper. He serves the newspaper as multimedia editor and is responsible for ensuring quality digital production is delivered in text, video and photo formats.

Dreadfulwater has a long history with NAJA and served as NAJA’s lead mentor during the 2010 conference in St. Paul, Minn., and the 2012 UNITY Journalists Convention in Las Vegas, N.V.

Anita Luera is a longtime television journalist, director of high school student programs at the ASU Cronkite School and president of the Arizona Latino Media Association. Luera will serve as the 2013 NAJA student programs chair for Project Phoenix as she advises NAJA leadership in organizing the weeklong event and helps prepare for the students’ arrival in Phoenix.

At ASU, she oversees national training institutes for high school journalism teachers and students. Previously, she was an award-winning news producer at Phoenix stations KPNX, the NBC-affiliate, and KTSP-TV, now Fox 10.

She was the first female news director in Phoenix, running the newsroom of Spanish language Univision affiliate KTVW 33.

Benny Polacca, Hopi/Havasupai/Pima/Tohono O’odham, is a journalist at the Osage News in Oklahoma. He previously worked for The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D. He has covered a range of Native American issues, producing stories about sacred land concerns, oral traditions and a museum exhibit on Indian boarding schools.

A graduate of Arizona State University, he also attended the Freedom Forum’s American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. Polacca’s work can be found at  

John de Dios graduated from the UA School of Journalism and co-directed the Dow Jones News Fund's Diversity Workshop for Arizona High School Students for several years before retiring from the program. 

During his time at the university, de Dios advised student leadership groups, mentored nationally for professional organizations including The New York Times Journalism institute, the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and for UNITY Journalists of Color. De Dios focuses on photojournalism, multi-platform storytelling and editing. 

At the journalism school, de Dios taught or assisted with classes that ranged from beginning photojournalism to the senior capstone classes involving online journalism, video journalism, documentary, and special projects. Recently, de Dios, whose first degree was in biology, has focused on science journalism. 

Aside from his work with students at the university and other organizations, de Dios also contributes to Tucson Weekly, is a guest blogger for the Scientific American blog and the social media coordinator for Reporting Unlimited, an organization dedicated to excellence in journalism training.

Sunnie Clahchischiligi is a freelance writer based in the Four Corners, N.M., area. She is a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a bachelor's degree in print journalism.

She has had six internships at the St. Cloud Times (twice), Albuquerque Journal, Sports Illustrated Magazine, Santa Fe New Mexican and the Salt Lake Tribune. She was the sports writer for the Navajo Times and the sports and features writer for the Osage News before returning to New Mexico as a freelance writer for local and national media outlets.

Ramona Marozas is a member of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians Reservation in Wisconsin. Ramona graduated from St. Cloud State University (SCSU) in 2012 with a degree in television broadcast journalism and a minor in American Indian studies.

She is a 2010 and 2011 American Indian Journalism Institute graduate. After college she was the first news apprentice to work at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. She interned at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., and at the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Marozas has been a proud member of the Native American Journalist Association (NAJA) since 2008. She attended NAJA conferences in 2009 and 2011 as a student, and is returning this year as a Project Phoenix mentor.

She also was a student at the UNITY: Journalists of Color Convention and the Crazy Horse Journalism Career Conference in 2008. Education, internships and journalism conferences have transformed Marozas into a professional journalist. She has experience filming, editing, producing, anchoring and reporting at SCSU’s television station:

Patty Talahongva is freelance multimedia journalist based in Phoenix. Ariz. She is a former president of NAJA and is assisting with the 2013 student projects newscast as well as coordinating the 2013 NAJA NPM Native Media Awards Banquet.