About Us

About SIENA - History

The Southwestern Institute for the Education of Native Americans (SIENA) was created on January 19, 2007 when Amy Romero and I brainstormed what we saw as the first comprehensive approach to educating Native American children. On a paper table cloth at the Macaroni Grill, Amy and I drew a diagram (with crayons) for the building we pictured as housing SIENA one day. It included a library, cultural center, study carrels, a gymnasium, computer lab, counseling center, and offices. Programs, services, and activities that would fill the building came next. When we left the restaurant, we knew had something special. (The original crayon and paper design will be placed on our first building’s lobby wall.)

I went back to my office, created a list of programs and services to be offered, and put into action my game plan to recruit committed, hardworking, and passionate people to serve on my board of directors.

Once I had an organizational chart which included our Areas of Influence: Education, Mental Health, Physical Health, Physical Fitness, Youth Advisory Council, and History and Culture, I began thinking of individuals who could support these areas and offer their expertise in developing programs and services that would meet the needs of our Native children, their parents, and their teachers.

The first person that I approached was Leon Oosahwe, our president. I knew that Leon would make a good president as he is strong, firm, has a sense of order and, perhaps more importantly, a good sense of humor. Next, I asked Jim Grossman to join us. Jim had been a sounding board for me when he was the Chairman of the Governor’s Council on Health, Physical Fitness, and Sports. His dedication and passion for Arizona’s Native youth are vital to the development of SIENA.

I then asked John Stollar of the Arizona Dept. of Education to join us. John’s experience as an educator and administrator would prove invaluable in establishing our foundation. Joining us next were Michael Allison of the Arizona Dept. of Health Services and Ken Poocha, Executive Director of the Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs. I knew Michael from serving with him on a committee for an American Indian youth conference. I knew Ken only slightly when I asked him to join SIENA. He came highly recommended as a man with whom I should share my goals for my new venture.

As in any organization, some of our board members have changed. Amy became a board member early last year and Michael Niles and Michelle Hale recently joined us. All three bring extremely valuable assets to SIENA.

In our two years of existence, we have developed into a force in the community. We have held three successful conferences and a fundraiser. This year, we are adding a professional development conference for educators of American Indian students. Plus, our Early Childhood Intervention Conference has been expanded to an all-inclusive parent conference, offering empowering information for all parents. (Please go to our Upcoming Events page for more information.)

As SIENA grows, we are in need of more volunteer help. We cannot grow without assistance from the community. So, please contact me with any questions you may have about volunteering. Click on the Membership link on the home page for a list of volunteering opportunities.

Thank you for your interest in SIENA. I hope that we can work together to achieve our mission of providing the resources necessary for Native American students to get the best education they can in a culturally rich environment that promotes health and well-being.

Have a wonderful day!


Nadine Groenig