Donella Moncooyea is a new mom with a budding career with Cherokee Nation Entertainment, a company she says puts families first.

Beginning as a buffet server at Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs in 2010, Moncooyea moved between CNE properties to learn new skills and seek new opportunities. She was promoted to Players Club supervisor at Cherokee Casino Tahlequah in 2016, but 2017 was her most eventful year yet.

She completed her bachelor’s degree in business administration at Northeastern State University, and the same year, her son, Gregor, was born. Thanks to Cherokee Nation’s eight-week maternity leave policy and additional benefits, Moncooyea bonded with Gregor around the clock during the first 12 weeks of his life.

“I love being a mom, but it was hard adjusting to motherhood,” Moncooyea said. “CNE gave me the time I needed to adapt and heal. When it was time to go back, I was ready.”

The Cherokee Nation and its businesses implemented the maternity leave policy in 2015 to promote healthier Cherokee families and to recruit and retain employees. Before the policy, new moms were required to use accrued sick and vacation time to take maternity leave. If those sources were exhausted, employees received 60 percent of their salary for the duration of leave.

Moncooyea said knowing she’d receive her full salary throughout maternity leave allowed her to focus on her newborn and her health.

“It’s great that we get this benefit,” she said. “CNE cares enough to give us that time, which is awesome.”

Each year, CNE reinvests 65 percent of its gaming profits into job creation for Cherokee Nation citizens. In 2017, that investment was $74.6 million.