If a student has 26 credits at a school where 22 credits are needed to graduate, should the school graduate the student early?
That is exactly the situation with Meucci Ilunga, 16, who told the governing board of the Window Rock Unified School District he had accumulated in his three years at Window Rock High School, where he also completed all the advanced courses offered at the school.
“I have pushed myself every day harder than the last, all in the face of adversity, and the biggest adversity of all – the one known as life,” he said.
Ilunga, son of a Congolese father and a Navajo mother, gave a long-form Navajo introduction with some of his background, before he made a speech to the board that ultimately convinced them to let him graduate this May.
“For me, education is not about societal norms or pragmaticism in a contemporary society. For me, it’s not just a means for survival in a tough and dynamically alternating modern socio-economic climate. It is something I embrace. It’s something I love,” Ilunga said.
Ilunga has been dual-enrolled at Diné College since the second semester of 2015. He has already been accepted to a number of colleges as a result of his academic success. He had been accepted at 11 academic institutions, including the University of New Mexico, Syracuse University and Columbia University in New York.
“In short, I have been quite busy, and the only way to sum up my position at this moment is that I’m ready to graduate,” he said.
When asked what he likes to do for fun, Ilunga confirmed that even though he keeps a tight reign on his academics, he does in fact play video games like any other teenager.
His favorite games “Paper Mario” and “Fallout 4” haven’t driven him to distraction, even from his other hobbies. Ilunga said he has hobbies that include photography, graphic design, videography, poetry, and writing. He is considering studies in biochemistry at Arizona State University.
He grew up in Kinlichee, where he kept a straight 4.0 throughout middle school and into high school. Even though the early grades didn’t use the same system to determine GPA, he said his proud parents like to say that he had a 4.0 since kindergarten.