Class of 3 gets royal treatment at Tsé Chizhi

Navajo Times / Cindy Yurth
Teller, Ranley Yazzie and Garrick Chee comprise the 2017 graduating class of Rough Rock High School. Two years ago there were 28 graduating seniors; now the entire student body is about 33, according to teacher Eugene Badonie.

ROUGH ROCK, Ariz.

No one can say the Rough Rock High School Class of 2017 got cheated out of their pomp and circumstance on account of there being only three of them.

Garrick Chee, Carlson Teller and Ranley Yazzie were treated to the works: prettily decorated cafeteria, a two-hour program with 10 speakers (including all three graduates), being serenaded by school royalty, roasted by their basketball coach and lectured by Miss Navajo.

About 100 family and well-wishers turned out to celebrate the graduates and take part in the delectable lunch whose aromas wafted through the cafeteria all through the ceremony.

The three young cowboys looked a little embarrassed by all the attention, but the fact is, they were more than just the school’s smallest-ever graduating class. They were Rough Rock loyalists.

School Board Secretary Mona Benally put it most bluntly, addressing the young men’s parents: “Thank you for entrusting us with your kids even though we have lost our accreditation.”

The school lost its accreditation Jan. 31 but the graduates will have a diploma from an accredited institution. The school partnered with Apex Learning, a virtual online school, for the students’ final semester.

“They’ll have an Apex virtual learning school diploma,” explained teacher and basketball coach Brandon Tso in his address to the crowd, “but they will see Sun Devil. They will see maroon and gold.” (That’s the school’s mascot and colors.)

Like any good coach, Tso put a positive spin on the situation.

“We were the first school to use the Navajo language in our curriculum,” he pointed out, “and we are the first, or at least one of the first, to graduate three gentlemen using this virtual learning school.”

Most of the students fled after the accreditation fiasco, leaving Chee, Teller and Yazzie the sole survivors of the senior class. The trio said they’re not concerned about their school’s accreditation status and don’t anticipate it holding them back.


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Categories: Education

About Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi’ Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at editor@navajotimes.com.