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Special emphasis programs deliver value

WAPA remains committed to providing electricity in many rural areas, including serving many tribal customers across our 15-state service territory.  

Native Americans also make up about 2.56% of WAPA’s employees. To help understand more about their perspectives, in November 2022, WAPA held a discussion panel with three employees with Native American heritage. Panelists including Program and Regulatory Advisor Ethel Redhair from Desert Southwest, Electrical Engineer Randall Medicine Bear from Rocky Mountain and Public Utilities Specialist Christopher Sirvas from Upper Great Plains, reflected on their experiences as Native Americans growing up, their journey in life and building a career. They each spoke about the challenges of being a member of mainstream America, while staying connected to their Native American heritage.  

The panelists also noted that while Native Americans living on a reservation have a better opportunity to stay connected to their heritage, they often have fewer chances to complete their education or prosper. Parts of some reservations still do not have basic services like water, electricity and access to computers and the internet. Conversely individuals who leave the reservation for opportunity lose touch with legacy and traditions. Today, many Native Americans cannot speak in their native language. 

While Native American Heritage Month is celebrated in November, heritage communities celebrate several observances throughout the year. In March, communities celebrate Irish American Heritage Month. Then in October, communities celebrate Italian American Heritage Month and Polish American Heritage Month. WAPA and the Department of Energy observe many such heritage celebrations throughout the year. You may see festivals and events planned for these groups and others in your local communities.  

Further, the federal government has taken steps over the years to go beyond celebrating heritage to providing equal opportunities for all employees. Through presidential proclamations, executive orders and public laws, the federal government has designated special emphasis programs (SEPs) to ensure that federal organizations take affirmative steps. SEPs focus on underrepresented groups (e.g., minorities, women, people with various disabilities, etc.), and although there are several requirements for SEPs, the most visible is using observances that create an opportunity to bring people together with the focus to educate each other, celebrate contributions and work toward a future that is inclusive of all people. 

SEP observances help with understanding the past, as well as present experiences and perspectives of groups that were traditionally not represented or subjected to discrimination in the workforce. These events represent a way to help appreciate these groups’ points of view and their valuable contributions to society. Our nation derives strength from the diversity of its population, and from its commitment to equal opportunity for all. Consequently, as the nation’s largest employer, the federal government upholds and honors its commitment to equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion. “The more we understand each other, the better we can relate to each other,” said Equal Employment Specialist Peggy Wooten. 

SEPs and their observances offer us the chance to learn about the many cultures that make America better through diversity. Consider learning more about these groups this year, their past, present and their future as well. 

 Note: The authors are from the Office of Economic, Impact and Diversity.  

illustration: colorful calendar with a clock behind it.

Federal SEP observances

January – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
February – Black History Month
March – Women’s History Month
May – Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
June – Pride Month
October – Hispanic Heritage Month
October – Disability Employment Awareness Month
November – Native American Heritage Month

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Last modified on March 12th, 2024