About Us - Our Story
We are Tara and Brenna Dugel, and in 2012 we began Project SENA to provide educational and mentorship opportunities to Native American youth and adults in order to help support and promote healthier, happier lives.
The inspiration for Project SENA began on our trips with our father to the Native American reservations in Arizona. My father provided eye care for these Native American patients and he would take us to the reservations with him whenever he could. On one of our trips, we were introduced to a Native American family who lived on the Navajo reservation in Chinle, Arizona. It was shocking to discover that a community just seven hours away from Phoenix had no running water or electricity. For the first time in our lives, we truly understood what poverty meant and saw its devastating impact, especially on children.
Once we gained their trust, this Navajo family was warm and welcoming and shared their rich culture with us. They took us camping on their private land deep within the walls of Canyon de Chelly. We were honored by this gesture because this area is reserved for Navajo families and off limits to tourists. During our camp out, they shared their traditions, and together we made Indian fry bread over an open fire under the shining stars. It truly was a magical night. Not only had we made friends for life, but also realized that we could make a difference in our own backyard.
During this same time, we were introduced to a community outreach program at a local church called Grace Place, which is also located in the Navajo Reservation. In this program, church volunteers pick up Navajo children after school and bring them to the church for homework help and educational enrichment activities. We procured 13 computers through a donation from Retinal Consultants of Arizona and set up a Skype bank at Grace Place. Using Skype, our aim was to help these students with homework, serve as tutors, and offer a weekly book club.
Our interaction with the students at Grace Place had been profoundly rewarding. We had made new friends and were convinced that we were making a positive impact as we encouraged these students to not only stay in school, but also excel. Through our experience at Grace Place, we realized how powerful and important peer mentoring can be. Therefore, we wanted to establish our own educational program that could also reach students outside the walls of Grace Place.
Fortunately, we were introduced to Rita Weatherholt from the Arizona Blind and Deaf Children’s Foundation. We met with her and discussed our vision of a comprehensive educational and mentorship program for Native American youth. Through a collaborative effort, we created Project SENA, our own non-profit organization.
Overall, we believe we have a unique peer-to-peer organization that will help create opportunities for Native American youth and adults. As we create these opportunities, we are determined to fulfill the goals in our mission statement one human being at a time.
There is a common denominator among all people in need: through education, dreams can be realized. Therefore, we wanted to create an organization whose mission is to provide comprehensive educational resources such as scholarships and mentorships to Native American youth and adults in order to create opportunities that will promote healthier, happier lives.