Chinle student grabs a Gates

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

CHINLE, May 2, 2013

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(Times photo – Cindy Yurth)

Tiffany Chee was the only student from Chinle High selected as a Gates Millenium Scholar.

Whenever Tiffany Chee feels like maybe it's all a mistake, like a girl raised in a hogan with no running water, miles from a paved road, couldn't possibly be heading to Creighton University this fall courtesy of Bill and Melinda Gates, she repeats her mantra: "No boundaries, no impossibilities."

Which is good because, although the Gates Millennium Scholarship provides up to $500,000 in educational funding for a bachelor's degree and certain advanced degrees, it does not cover medical school ... Chee's ultimate dream. So she still has some fundraising to do.

For now, however, the 17-year-old Chinle High senior, a daughter of Sam and Theresa Chee of Spider Rock, Ariz., is "excited and relieved" that she won't have to worry about raising money for college.

The timing couldn't have been better. Chee, who is Bitter Water born for Salt, had just returned from a college-scouting trip to Creighton feeling depressed. She was convinced that was where she wanted to go, but knew that she would be lucky to even raise enough money for an in-state community college.

Back at Chinle High, a fellow student chased her down the hall excitedly announcing the Gates letters had arrived, and sure enough, hers was waiting for her when she came home.

And sure enough, it was a yes ... the only yes at Chinle High this year.

Chee credited her AP teachers and sports coaches with pushing her to excellence, but when you live three-and-a-half miles down a dirt road, there's one other person you have to thank.

"My bus driver," she said. "He always got me there. Well, except when it was real muddy and we had to stay home."

And her grandfather, who looked out the window every morning and made sure all four Chee kids trotted onto that bus. And the couple Chee calls her "in-laws," boyfriend Edmiles Harvey's folks, who helped her with the application. And about 20 other people she kept remembering and texting this reporter to add.

Out here, it definitely takes a village.

In addition to maintaining a 4.03 GPA (which ranks her 6th in her graduating class of 209), Chee plays saxophone in the Wildcat Band, participates in National Honor Society and the Student Conservation Association, and runs track and cross-country (one thing that sold her on Creighton was the indoor track).

She is also, according to her band teacher, Eric Swanson, "one of the nicest, most polite students I've ever had," which should serve her well in the people-skills-intensive medical field.

But is a girl from tiny Spider Rock, where you recognize everybody's truck, ready to live in Omaha, Neb., population 415,000?

Chee figures looking out her dorm window and seeing skyscrapers won't be all that different from gazing at the 800-foot-tall spires of Spider Rock. And she's ready for just a bit more stimulation.

Instead of an hour-and-a-half drive to the nearest movie theater, "I'll be able to walk downtown and see a play," she said.

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