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Elston Yepa

Elston Yepa is a student in the Electronics Engineering Technology program at the ITT Technical Institute in Albuquerque, NM. He and his musical group, Black Eagle, were nominated for a GRAMMY(r) Award at the February 27, 2002 event.

His group performs Native American traditional and newly written songs in English and the Powa language. Their current album, "Life Goes On," is their fifth release for which they were nominated for this award. Yepa started the group with his cousin and a few friends in high school. Since then, Black Eagle has grown to 10 members, including more family members.

A few months before the event, their manager gathered all the members to tell them that they had been one of six groups nominated in the Native American Album award category. They were very excited and screamed when they heard the news.

"It was overwhelming and didn't click right away for me as to what was happening," says Yepa. "As the event got closer it began to sink in."

All the group members were invited to attend pre-event parties as well as the GRAMMY(r) telecast itself. The nominees in Native American music performed live at the pre-award party. At the event he had the opportunity to meet many other musicians including Alicia Keys, members of Destiny's Child, Kid Rock and Al Green. He was also able to do some sightseeing on his trip to Los Angeles.

"Being Native American and being at the GRAMMY's(r) is a big step for a person from a reservation, and I want to tell other kids to keep on going. You can make things happen for yourself," said Yepa.

Although his group didn't win, they each received bronze medallions marking the event and a crystal trophy that reads "Native American GRAMMY(r) Nominee." The group decided to display the trophy at the Walatowa Visitors Center for the community to enjoy.

Since acquiring their "new-found-fame," the group has enjoyed local popularity and is serving as a role model for kids at their reservation. Yepa's ITT Tech classmates are also very excited for him.

To find out more about the Computer and Electronics Engineering Technology program, click here.

To find out more about the ITT Tech in Albuquerque, NM, click here.

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