Inspiration abounds at Diné College

Throughout the crowd of graduates are stories of non-traditional students

Navajo Times | Cindy Yurth
Graduate Christelle Holyan, second from right, poses with her mother, Sharon Begay; her aunt, Evangeline Holyan; and her grandmother Minnie Dawes after graduating from Diné College Friday.

TSAILE, Ariz.

There’s something special about a Diné College graduation. And it isn’t just the cedar fire burning in front of the stage, or the fact the college jish is on display.

This is the college people turn to when they can’t afford to leave the reservation. When their education plans are derailed by an early marriage or an unexpected pregnancy. When their college career has been disrupted by fears and self-doubts.

There are so many non-traditional students at this school, they’re actually the more traditional ones, and the teens fresh out of high school are the non-trads.

Navajo Times | Cindy Yurth
Diné College graduates pose with their diplomas Friday in Tsaile.

Which means that, at every Diné College graduation, you don’t have to fish too long for inspiring stories. They’re everywhere.

Take this year’s student commencement speaker, Darrell K. Yazzie. He had registered for Diné College before, in 2006, but never entered a classroom.

“I thought I wasn’t smart enough,” he said — in spite of the fact that he was already helping his parents run the family business, the Round Rock Trading Post.

The father of three registered again in 2012, and this time he stayed in long enough to get his degree in business administration.

“My wife asked me, ‘Where did you get the energy to get up at 2 a.m. to do your homework assignment?’” Yazzie recalled. “You have to believe you can do it. You become like a big giant ball of energy.”

Danielle Bitsilly of Wheatfields, Arizona, had a baby when she was a junior in high school. She thought her education was over, but with the help of a supportive family and Diné College’s day care program, she walked out of commencement with an associate in health occupations.

Her husband and little son, both decked out in suits and ties, greeted her with an embrace in the parking lot. Now it’s on to Farmington where she hopes to get into San Juan College’s nursing school.


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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.