Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 19, 2001 - Issue 36



Counselor Challenges Students


 by Maureen West The Arizona Republic

On the northernmost edge of Arizona, Page High School is a feeder to Ivy League colleges. The Ivies are always looking for smart and talented Native American students.

Page High is 70 percent Native American, almost all from Page or the adjacent Navajo Reservation. Some students are bused from 50 miles each way.

Almost every year, the school has one or two standout Native American students. But this year's class is one of the most academically talented in a long time.

Brown UniversityThe No. 1 Native American student in the senior class of 234 is 18-year-old Marlon Footracer, who, with a 3.9 grade-point average and solid ACT scores, has accepted admission to Stanford, though Harvard is still wooing him. Footracer also has offers from Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton and the University of Arizona. He was wait-listed at Johns Hopkins University.

Columbia UniversityA half-dozen members of his class have been offered spaces at other top schools, including Notre Dame, Mount Holyoke and Vanderbilt. In the past, other Page students have won Flinn scholarships, which pay expenses for four years and offer travel opportunities to students who stay in Arizona for college.

Cornell UniversityFootracer gives lots of credit to the school's counseling department, especially Richard Buck, who for 18 years has encouraged Page students to think big.

"Mr. Buck identifies high-achieving kids as early as their freshman year and talks with them all along the way," said Stacy Wadleigh, another counselor who works closely with Buck in helping seniors.

Dartmouth College"He is aggressive about his kids getting scholarships."

Buck brings back students who have gone on to big schools like MIT and Stanford to tell the kids still in school that it is possible. The sky, in this land of big skies, is the limit.

Harvard UniversityAt the school's annual awards assembly this month, Buck will announce that students received $2 million in scholarship offers.

Buck says he simply encourages students to work up to their abilities.

University of Pennsylvania"I didn't get these kids into college. They got themselves into college, with the help of their teachers and their parents," he said.

But each year, a few students don't have the $50 to $75 for college application fees to the prestigious schools. Buck is known at the big colleges, and, with a phone call, the fees are waived.

Princeton University"Universities don't want little fees to be roadblocks to bright but poor students," he said.

About a third of Buck's seniors will go on to college this year, most within the state. While that is low for most high schools, the numbers have been slowly increasing because of the efforts of Buck and other counselors.

Yale universityLast year, he offered a one-credit class on colleges and scholarships, and 75 seniors signed up. He taught them how to fill out admission applications and find scholarships. He took 60 on a three-day field trip to Northern Arizona University, Yavapai Community College, Grand Canyon University, Mesa Community College, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona.

"A lot of these kids had never been to Tucson or a university campus. You can have the greatest counseling program in the world, but if the kids aren't knowledgeable or motivated, they aren't going anywhere," Buck said.

Stanford UniversityAt Page, the senior awards ceremony is held during the school day, and attendance is mandatory for everyone.

"As freshmen, sophomores and juniors sit there and watch seniors get their awards, I hope they realize that great things can happen in their lives, too," Buck said. "There is money available. There are tremendous academic programs out there. We keep telling them over a four-year period: Be accountable, work hard, set goals high, and get yourself up on that stage when you are a senior."

Many seniors, including Footracer, will hear their names called more than once.

As many as eight may receive five-year, $5,000-a-year scholarships from the Navajo Nation. The community of Page, population 8,000, also will give out $25,000 in scholarships this year.

Footracer said he intends to work as a doctor on the Navajo Reservation after college and medical school.

Mount Holyoke College"Everyone in high school says they never want to come back, but I loved growing up here. It is picturesque, and the Navajo people are so friendly. I feel connected to this land," he said.

He lives with his father and brother in Page but visits his mother and other relatives in Lupton. Footracer's family hates to see him go so far away, but they know it is an opportunity for him to eventually do good for his people.

His family helped him in other ways. They gave him a colorful story to tell in college interviews - one passed along about his great-grandfather. After Footracer would introduce himself, interviewers inevitably would ask about his last name. He would explain that every year in Lupton, his great-grandfather ran a 12-mile race and won. When the teenager would tell the story, he would feel proud, and his nervousness would pass.

Page High School


Note: All the college logos are linked to the home page of the respective institution.
(The webmaster is the proud father of a Mount Holyoke alumna.)




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