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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 29, 2002 - Issue 64


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Hopi Eighth Graders Ready for High School

by Stan Bindell Navajo-Hopi Observer

Polacca, AZ - Valedictorian Brendan Steele thanked his classmates for putting forth the work everyday that made them successful in class.

Steele offered his comments May 29 at the Hopi Junior High School promotion. About 900 friends, family and educators packed into the auditorium to watch 99 students receive their promotion from junior high to high school.

Steele thanked his teachers including English teacher Carol O'Keefe for being kind, interesting and fun; science teacher Andrew Johnson for telling students on the first day that he was ‘weird' and then living up to his word; and math teacher Dave Loveland for helping with mistakes, even though he made some himself.

Steele, who has a perfect 4.0 grade point average for the past two years, thanked Hopi Junior High Principal Glenn Gilman for liking these students so much that he wants to put up with them for the next four years. Gilman will be the high school principal next year.

Salutatorian Terra Morgan thanked her parents for leading the way. She thanked her uncles for helping with homework, friends for encouraging her and teachers who challenged her. She thanked her grandfather for teaching her the importance of education.

Morgan, who hails from Old Oraibi, thanked several relatives for serving as role models, but especially her mother Dushon Monongye who is an academic counselor for Hopi Junior/Senior High School. She urged her classmates to think about their accomplishments and take time to make informed decisions about their future.

"Remember commencement is the beginning," Morgan said. "Dream big and pray for the best in life. Never give up."

Keynote speaker Dr. Darren Vicente, family physician at Hopi Health Care Center, said hard work creates opportunities to make students successful in life.

"You're moving on to high school. How exciting," he said.

Dr. Vicente, who is Hopi and Zuni, said he was proud of his reaching his goal of becoming a doctor. But he emphasized that he did not take the typical pathway — and he was not a straight A student. He remembered going off to high school and finding that he had different friends.

"But these friendships were just as rewarding," he said.

Dr. Vicente said his biggest piece of advice to the students is for them to get involved. He recalled that high school went well for him because he played basketball, but then he went off to college on a scholarship. When he failed to keep a 3.0 grade point average after his first year, he lost his scholarship and was on the verge of quitting college to get a job.

His father told him that whatever he decided to do, he better like it because he was probably going to have to do it the rest of his life.

"Just go back to school, we'll find the money to pay for it and take only classes that you like," his father told him.

Dr. Vicente followed his father's advice. His grade point average zoomed to a 3.7 his first semester back and he was on the road to becoming a doctor. In 1992, he earned a BS in Biology from the University of New Mexico. In 1996, he earned his medical degree from University of New Mexico Medical School. He went to work for Indian Health Service and worked at Santa Fe Indian Hospital before coming to Hopi Medical Center in January.

He told the 99 students that each one of them has the foundation to be successful.

"I worked hard, paid attention, learned a little about a lot and a lot about a few subjects," he said. "Hard work creates opportunity. It brings confidence, which leads to success.

"Then you can have a job where you go to work because you want to — not because you have to."

Dr. Vicente urged the students to become role models through honesty, hard work and caring.

"You have all worked hard for the recognition you're receiving tonight," he said. "You have the ability to choose what you do next."

He also urged the students to remember where they came from.

Principal Gilman said the 99 students had gained the mechanics to have a successful high school career as they have obtained the basics in reading, writing and math. He emphasized that this is necessary because this class, the Class of 2006, will be the first class that will be required to pass the statewide AIMS test.

Gilman said he hopes that each student will pass the test by 2004, but if not they will have two more years to work on it so like President Bush says, ‘no child will be left behind.'
Gilman said all the promotees had received a quality education as strong as any in the state or nation.

"I'm confidant all 99 will make good choices and that they will be as serious about high school as they were about junior high school," he said.

Gilman said the they need to make good educational choices whether they learn from their elders, parents or educators.

"You won't have any excuse to say you didn't have the opportunity," he said. "When I was in school, I was lacking many of the necessities that you have been provided." Specifically, Gilman said Hopi Junior High students have technology and after-school academic and athletic programs that many students don't have offered to them.

"It's up to you to succeed," he said. "Only you can say that you tried the hardest to be the best that you can be."

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