Nazlini students show off skills at science fair

Navajo Times staff reports

Feb. 27, 2014

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(Courtesy photo)

Nazlini Community School Principal Helena Botone discusses a chemistry project with sixth-grade student Dara Shirley during the Nazlini Community School Science Fair.

NAZLINI, Ariz. - Students at Nazlini Community School enjoyed a fun-filled learning experience at their science fair last week.

The entries covered a wide range of topics across the science spectrum, according to Melissa Calamity, coordinator of the science fair.

Students in grades 1-6 entered 31 projects in five categories that included physical science, chemistry, engineering, environmental science and behavioral, and social science.

Winning science projects were created by Shaun Clark, Jerome Peshtony, Tatiyanna and Kelli Tsijinnie, Mariah Choe, Paige Wilson, Dara Shirley, Koral Tsinajinnie, Lannie Dodge, Latrell Whitney, Layla Gorman, Darius Billie, Ryan Clark Shandin Clark, Persais Klaine, Markayla Begay, Autumn Dokey, and Taylor Begay.

Members of the Navajo Nation's Office of Diné Science, Math and Technology traveled from Window Rock to assist in judging the student's work.

Winners will now proceed to the Navajo Nation Regional Science Fair to be held Feb. 26-27 at Red Rock State Park in Gallup.

NTU students teach how to be a responsible pet owner

CROWNPOINT - Students in Navajo Technical University's Pre Vet club visited T'iis Ts'ozi Bi'Olta on Feb. 14 to give presentations on "Being a responsible pet owner" and to introduce kids to careers in veterinary medicine, according to a NTU news release.

T'iis Ts'ozi Bi'Olta is the second elementary school the club has visited in their community outreach endeavors after visiting Borrego Pass Elementary two weeks earlier. As part of their visit, the club reached out to kindergarten through third grade classes and gave individual presentations that utilized Powerpoints or different drawing books to engage the children.

"We showed them basically what vet techs do such as spaying and neutering and giving vaccinations," said NTU vet tech student, Teisha Robertson. "We also talked about the diseases animals carry if not vaccinated and why dogs need shelter and exercise." The club also brought in their pets to allow students to listen to animal heart rates and each kid was awarded with a treat bag for participating. The treat bag included a dog leash, crayon and color activities, and stress relievers shaped as dog bones.

"Each student approached their presentation different, which is cool," stated NTU Vet Tech Instructor Dr. Zoey Benally, who also serves as an advisor to the Pre Vet club. "The kids really enjoy it." NTU's Pre Vet club plans on making two more school visits over the rest of the semester to talk to children from Crownpoint and Standing Rock Elementary.

NTU's Veterinary Technology program offers an associate degree and provides practical hands-on clinical and field experience and formal classroom instruction that focuses on duties and skills to enable students to enter animal health and related fields. According to Dr. Benally, there are about 45 students currently enrolled in the program.

For more information about NTU's Veterinary Technology program, contact Dr. Germaine Daye at or by calling 505-786-4150.

Tsehootsooi student selected to attend D.C. leadership forum

FORT DEFIANCE -- Jaden Kirklee Redhair, an 8th grade student at Tsehootsooi Middle School in Fort Defiance, will travel to Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia to participate in a People to People World Leadership Forum, according to a WLF news release.

Throughout the course of the program in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, Redhair, along with fellow students from around the world, will learn about leadership and how iconic leaders throughout history have handled world events. Various hands-on activities, relevant professional speakers, small group workshops, and visits to significant memorials, museums, and monuments will provide Redhair with insights on the importance and essential need for informed and inspired world leaders.

"I'm most excited about participating in the People to People World Leadership Forum because I get to experience a new state and get to see all the memorials the city has to offer and I will use this knowledge to better myself as a leader," said Redhair.

The People to People World Leadership Forum offers students a unique blend of specialized educational, leadership, and cultural exposure through a variety of programs, as well as an itinerary filled with the highlights of the hosting community.

Redhair is the son of Sean and Chelseah Ahasteen of Fort Defiance, and Malcolm Redhair of Phoenix. His grandparents are the late Randy Berry and Emelene Berry of Window Rock, Ralph and Maggie Redhair of Window Rock, and Larry and Bertha Ahasteen of Fort Defiance.

The family of Jaden is accepting donations which will go toward covering the costs of the trip, which has totaled $2,673. Call Chelseah at 928-797-1788 or 928-729-2926 for more information.

Diné completing master's degree

TEMPE, Ariz. - Emery Tahy left his home at age 16 after a high school counselor told him he'd be better off learning a trade since he was failing in school. Now he's finishing his master's degree at Arizona State University while working toward his goal of becoming a tribal leader, according to an ASU news release.

Tahy's journey through life has taken him from the small Navajo reservation community of Westwater, Utah, to Job Corps where he learned the value of working hard and to the university where he discovered a passion for American Indian studies.

Learning electrician and ironworker skills through Job Corps served him well after high school, but he always felt like there was something missing from his life. Then the bottom fell out of the economy.

"I learned a lot from that experience and I will always have a trade, but I felt that there was a void. There was something missing," Tahy said.

When construction work dried up during the recession, he worked for Native American Connections in Phoenix, which introduced him to research and aiding American Indians in the city.

"I felt like I would have more opportunities if I had a degree," he added. "I feel like education is the key to being successful." Taking classes at a community college began to fill that void, as did transferring to ASU to earn his bachelor's degree in political science with a minor in American Indian studies.

"I'm really passionate about politics," he said. "I felt like I was always engaged in what was going on in the world while doing construction, but I felt left out. Education was what was missing." American Indian studies classes taught him about tribal governance and led him to the realization that he could give back to his people and his nation through education. He'll finish his master's degree this December.

"The classes really drove home the importance of culture and language and who I was as a person. It showed me how I can be a leader in tribal leadership and be of service to my people who are lacking educated leaders. There's no program like it," he said. "I feel a sense of responsibility to my elders and my community." Tahy would like to serve elders after he graduates like he did his grandparents while he was growing up on the Navajo Reservation. He remembers translating from English into Navajo letters that his grandfather received regarding a settlement for uranium miners. His grandparents also taught him how to speak Navajo while he learned English in school.

"Many elders first language is Navajo. They need someone to talk on their behalf," he said. "I really want to help those elders who cannot read and understand the legal jargon." During his years at ASU, Tahy has completed Navajo language courses that polished his reading and writing skills.

"I love my language. I think that is what really grounded me here," he said. "My grandparents have passed on, but it seems like their teaching still echoes through my memory, to be educated and not forget about language and culture." Part of his cultural teachings included remembering the clans he was born to - Bitter Water Clan, born for Mexican Clan, Edge Water Clan and Red-Running-Into-The-Water Clan.

While he is finishing his degree, Tahy is also learning invaluable practical skills by interacting with tribes in his current role working on the Tribal Indicators Project for the American Indian Policy Institute at ASU. The multifaceted project consists of gathering, preparing and analyzing American Indian census data.

"I've been meeting wonderful tribal leaders while I'm in this position. It's preparing me to become effective working in tribal leadership. It's paving that road for me," he said. "I'd like to help Native American people throughout the nation. This program is getting me ready to do that."

Recruitment, retention among priorities for Native education

PHOENIX -- Recently the Arizona Legislature's Native American Caucus met to discuss challenges and opportunities for Native American students who want to pursue higher education. The group heard recommendations from experts who work in the area of Native American students and community education issues, according to a news release from the Caucus.

"Encouraging our youth to pursue a higher education and to have the resources to realize that dream is only the first step," said Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michael's (District 7). "Once in college, these students need support. That support could include financial help or mentorship and guidance. Also, retention is a major challenge for Native American students that needs to be addressed." Arizona Board of Regents Treasurer LuAnn Leonard gave an update of the board's priorities for Native American education, which include recruitment and retention, greater access to university enrollment for community college students, financial aid, tribal communication and residency classification. The board's goals are intended to provide resources that would increase access to higher education for Native American students.

As a part of this update, representatives from the three major public universities presented on initiatives their universities have taken to increase the success of American Indian students. These initiatives included community service, research expansion and increasing graduation rates.

The Deputy Associate Superintendent of Native American Education and Outreach, Debora Norris, also spoke about the progress that the Department of Education has made in helping Native American students succeed in public education. She outlined recommendations for improving education within indigenous communities. These recommendations focused on funding, programs, and policies that would benefit Native American education.

Sen. Carlyle Begay, D-Ganado (District 7), shared some startling statistics about graduation rates among Native American students.

"As a Legislature, we need to improve and invest in our state universities, tribal and community colleges by improving Arizona's statewide education system, especially for American Indian students," said Begay. "American Indian students have one of the lowest graduation rates among any student subgroup in Arizona.

"Sixty-five percent of Native American students graduated high school within four years in 2012, compared to 77 percent of all students and 84 percent of white students," he added. "The six-year college graduation rate for Native American students in Arizona is the lowest of any demographic group at 38.4 percent. The six-year college completion rates for white students are 59.4 percent; for Hispanic students, it is 48.4 percent; for black students, it is 44 percent. We need to give every American Indian student an opportunity to get an education, to apply themselves as best as they can, and to make a difference."

Local students named to ASU dean's list

TEMPE, Ariz. - Undergraduate students who earn 12 or more graded semester hours during a semester in residence at Arizona State University with a GPA of 3.50 or higher are eligible for the dean's list, according to an ASU news release.

The following local students were named to the dean's list at Arizona State University: Troy Aguirre of Window Rock, Charnae Lynch of Window Rock, Jade Mallahan of Window Rock, and Ty Smith of Window Rock.

Assistant Secretary approves funding for College of the Muscogee

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Department of Interior's Assistant Secretary on Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn announced Feb. 12 that the College of the Muscogee Nation in Okmulgee, Okla., is eligible for operations funding from the Bureau of Indian Education under Title I of Public Law 95-471, the Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities Assistance Act of 1978, as amended. Funding to the College would commence in July 2014, according to a news release from the Department of the Interior.

"I congratulate the College of the Muscogee Nation for achieving this important milestone in its development and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation leaders for realizing their vision of bringing higher education opportunities to their people," Washburn said. "I'm pleased that we are able to support the College in its quest to become an independent institution of higher learning, and a full member of the family of tribal colleges and universities." In April of last year, the College sought funding as a tribal college under Title I of the Act. The Assistant Secretary's approval of the College of the Muscogee Nation as eligible for operations funding increases the number of Title I BIE-funded tribal colleges and universities, which are forward-funded, to 27.

Founded in 2004, the College was established to meet the Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizens' need for quality higher education that also embodies Muscogee (Creek) tribal culture, language and history. The institution is governed by a board of regents, an independent entity based on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation constitution, legislation and code.

The College awards associate degrees in gaming, Native American studies, police science and tribal services, and offers two certificate programs in gaming and Mvskoke Language studies. Its primary source of funding is from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

In its early years, the College entered into an agreement with the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology to enhance services to its students. While the College continues its development, financial aid processing, transcripts and awarding of credits through the OSU system, its students have access to OSUIT facilities, administrative systems and technical support through dual enrollment in both institutions.

The College is working towards becoming an independent institution, and is currently in candidacy status with the Higher Learning Commission's North Central region. The HLC is an independent corporation and one of two commission members of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. The HLC accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the North Central region, which includes Oklahoma. HLC accreditation grants membership in the Commission and in the North Central Association.

UNITY announces its 25 under 25 awards program

MESA, Ariz. - One of the nation's largest Native American youth organizations has announced a new awards program that will honor Native American and Alaska Native youth at its annual national convention.

The United National Indian Tribal Youth, Inc., better known as UNITY, will honor, recognize and celebrate the achievements of young Native people between the ages of 14 and 25 who embody UNITY's core mission and exudes living a balanced life developing their spiritual, mental, physical and social well-being.

"We are excited to launch this new program and give Native youth a platform to be recognized for their achievements" said Mary Kim Titla, executive director of UNITY, Inc. "UNITY has seen many talented youth come through our program over the last 38 years, it is our hopes that success stories of those recognized through the "25 Under 25" program will inspire other youth to reach for dreams, be proud of their ancestors and maintain the best of their traditions." In addition to being recognized, each awardee will receive special training by UNITY over the period of one year that is designed to build on their individual achievements. The inaugural class will be recognized as UNITY ambassadors, serving as stellar examples of Native youth leadership and representative of the future of Indian Country.

The UNITY 25 Under 25 Native Youth Leadership Awards program will officially be unveiled during a press event at UNITY's Midyear Conference on Feb. 28 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va.

Applications will be available on UNITY's website mid-March, with selections being announced in May. Awardees will officially be recognized at a formal banquet during the 2014 UNITY National Convention at the Portland Convention Center on July 2 in front of more than 1,500 peers.

Those interested in nominating an individual for the recognition program are encouraged to visit the UNITY website mid-March at or call UNITY headquarters at 480-718-9793 for detailed information on the application and process.

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