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Rolonda Jumbo, former Chinle star, graduates with master’s

CHINLE

In late November, Northern Arizona University hosted its second virtual commencement in honor of the graduating students of 2020. One such student is former Chinle High star Rolonda Jumbo, who graduated with a master’s degree in education leadership.

“Having grown up in Chinle and having attended NAU, I had some of the best teachers and coaches,” Jumbo said. “After receiving a degree in education, my plan is to play it forward, wherever I have the opportunity to…

“All of the time and effort teachers and coaches put into me,” she said, “I’d like to give that back.”

Jumbo first started her running career in Chinle. While in high school, she helped the Chinle Wildcats win a multitude of awards in cross-country and track and field. She also represented the Navajo Nation at national events.

She helped get the Wildcats to state championships four times in cross-country and was a six-time individual state champion on the track.

She helped win three Arizona 3A and Division III state titles (2009, 2010 and 2012).

She also competed on the 2009 Junior USA Team for the North American, Central American, and Caribbean Championships in Florida and ran in the USA National Cross-Country Championships four times (2009-12) in the junior women’s 6K race for Wings of America.

All this before leaving high school.

“When I started running, I knew it was something I really enjoyed,” Jumbo said. “As I continued to run, I was told by many people that running could pay for my school.

“Ever since then,” she said, “that became my goal to obtain a Division 1 scholarship. Running Division 1 for four years was my dream come true.”

She later signed to run at NAU in 2012 where she was a student-athlete during her undergraduate years, running in Division I competition.

While in college, she would acquire many awards and honors while participating in track & field and cross-country.

In cross-country, she competed at the Arizona State Invitational, Big Sky Championships, NCAA Mountain Regional Championships, and the NCAA National Championships.

According to the NAU athletics website, by her sophomore year in 2013, Jumbo was shaping up to be the No. 1 runner for that season.

For track & field, she competed in the Big Sky Indoor Championships, Big Sky Outdoor Championships, NAU Invitational, and NCAA West Preliminary Round. She won a multitude of bronze, silver and gold medals in the sport.

She is also thankful for the many scholarships that helped her with her pursuits, such as the Quayle scholarship which she said really helped her finish her last year at NAU.

Jumbo took a break from running when she went into her master’s program, wanting to focus solely on her school work, but she would still run for recreation purposes.

“The reason I started the program was to learn more about access and opportunity for students interested in attending college and finding my place to support students in that way,” Jumbo said. “The college of education department at NAU was very supportive of me beginning this program to accomplish what I wanted to do.”

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic changed Jumbo’s plans for graduation. Despite this, it didn’t take away the significance of her achievement.

“My program wasn’t very long at all,” she said. “It was an accelerated program, so I had different classes every seven weeks. Most of my graduate school experience was during this pandemic, and I experienced a lot of change and uncertainty during this time.

“As well as worry,” she said. “That was just what the experience was like.

“I accepted that my graduation would be virtual,” she added. “I still wanted this to be an exciting time for myself and my family.

“Because graduate school is such a big commitment to make,” she said, “and to have completed the program was big. The commitment I made to school is what made this virtual commencement special.”

With a master’s degree in hand, she plans to work in the field of education and help teach children, on and off the reservation, and encourage them to chase their goals and dreams, just as she had done in her college years.

“When I was attending high school, I really cared about running and the team,” she said. “The whole experience was very enjoyable.

“At the time, I did not realize I was becoming a role model with everything I did,” she said. “But now that I am older, I understand the importance, and I had the opportunity to speak at several schools and several classrooms.

“The teachers told me to talk about my experience running and what it’s like to run at NAU,” she said. “I talked to the kids about the importance of having goals and dreams, that those goals and dreams will give them something to look forward to every day, and that’s why those are important.”


About The Author

David Smith

David Smith was born and raised in Chinle, Arizona. He graduated from Chinle High School in 2015 and went on to study journalism at Northern Arizona University. He graduated in the spring of 2020 with his bachelors in journalism and a minor in English. He later moved back home where he is now working as sports writer for the Navajo Times. Contact him at david.smith@navajotimes.com

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