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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 9, 2002 - Issue 56


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Navajo Professionals Mentor KCHS Math, Science Students

photo: Mrs. Mary Boognl
Mrs. Mary Boognl KIRTLAND, NM - When Karlissa Benally settled into her dorm room at New Mexico State University nine years ago, she wasn't sure she had made the right decision.

A first generation college student, Benally was overwhelmed with her course load and missed her strong family ties back on the Navajo Nation. Today Benally is an environmental engineer at NASA Johnson Space Center White Sands Test Facility and she is teaming up with students at Kirtland Central High School to provide the support and guidance she missed out on during her collegiate career.

"I really would've liked to have a Native American mentor with whom to identify," Benally said.

Benally is one of 10 Navajo professionals and college students who are committed to "Navajo Students Leading One Another to Success," a program designed to inspire and teach students how mathematical and scientific applications are used in their technological careers. The program is backed by a grant from Toyota's Investment in Mathematics Excellence. KCHS math teacher Mary Boognl applied for the $10,000 grant to encourage Native American students to excel in advanced math and science courses and to pursue careers in technology.

"Now that I am in the work force, I would like to see more Native American professionals. I realize that this can only be done through education," Benally said.

"Being a mentor in this program I can encourage, motivate, support and guide many high school students to pursue a college degree."

Boognl said that it's crucial that those who have succeeded have a means to return to their reservation communities to do just that. "The goal of this project is to spread the message of hope and possibility to the students of KCHS," she said.

Mentors and students meet once a month for weekend seminars. They spend time "getting their hands dirty" conducting the same experiments the mentors complete at their work sites. Students also look for solutions to "real life" problems. The weekend seminars also incorporate Navajo traditional teachings and storytelling.

In addition to mentoring students, the professionals worked with math and science teachers at KCHS to introduce manipulatives that are more conducive to Native American learners.

"We're asking teachers to try the new techniques which might keep students in the classrooms," Boognl said.

Information: Boognl, (505) 598-5881.

EDITOR'S NOTE: KCHS provided this article.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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