Growing up, Jonathan Begay did not have easy access to electricity. The ranch where their livestock was kept had no means of water or electricity but their home, fortunately did. This was not uncommon, and “life was like that on a lot of the Navajo reservations,” according to Begay. Nevertheless, his father and siblings made part of their living working in construction, and so Begay followed suit.
Begay originally planned to go into the electrical trades program at Navajo Technical University (NTU). It wasn’t until he saw the course catalog that he found the sustainable energy program. Begay says he was drawn to the program because of his upbringing. Hauling his own water and growing his own food had instilled in him the ideologies of sustainability.
Begay graduated in 2006 and unsurprisingly, went straight into working in the field. Since he started working, Begay has worked for three solar companies and has done everything from carpentry, to masonry work, to photovoltaics, to electronics.
Despite having a long career that continues to be successful, Begay hasn’t forgotten how he got there. A lot of his success, he says, stems from the fact that the program at NTU focuses on teaching students the theory while also giving them practical hands-on experience.
“It’s such a valuable program because they really stress the theory side of it. Professor Griego is not only a good teacher, he also provides situational examples that you can relate to when you’re out in the field. It’s not one hundred percent book smarts, or one hundred percent site work. It’s really a balanced mesh of both aspects of the trade,” says Begay.
Begay returns to NTU regularly to speak to students currently enrolled in the sustainable energy program. He answers their questions, gives advice, and tries to help them on their way the best he can. His long-term goal is to become an instructor for the program someday.
So far, he seems to be right on track.