CITY Diné College student Violet Tso attended her
first American Indian Higher Education Consortium conference in
Billings, Mont., this spring and returned to Tuba City as the group's
Student Congress President.
includes 35 tribal colleges, 34 across the United States and one
in Canada. Diné College sends a team of students to the organization's
annual conference to compete in events such as the Knowledge Bowl
and Science Bowl. Generally, the competitors hail from the main
campus in Tsaile. Tso said she was invited to be part of this year's
team after being named Diné College Student of the Yearrecognition
based on an essay, questionnaire, biography, grades and a resume
of school/community activities. "This is the first year a student
was involved from one of Diné College's branch campuses,"
the conference, Tso said she entered several competitions including
speech. Her persuasive speech arguing against Peabody Coals's continued
use of the N-aquifer netted her a third prize. Her informative speech
covered traditional Navajo pottery, and she garnered both an honorable
mention and an award of excellence for the artwork she entered.
Tso proudly pointed out that her mother, Faye Tso, has the designation
of being an Arizona Living Treasure because of her pottery.
the competitions, I found out about the Student Congress elections,
suggested that Diné College get involved and found out how
to get into the race," she said. "There were four us running for
president, two males and two females."
March 24, the day of the election, Tso's campaign speech focused
on lobbying to get tribal campuses fully developed.
agreements whether treaties or federal acts always mention good
quality education," she said. "The treaty with the Diné nation
was over a hundred years ago."
she pointed out on just about on any branch campus, facilities are
lacking, consisting of doublewides or even condemned buildings.
Tutoring programs, financial aid, computer equipment, books, libraries,
science labs and fine arts facilities are other areas Tso highlighted
as needing improvement.
my personal experience coming from a branch campus, I really connected
with students from other tribal branch campuses," she said. "Almost
every cent goes to the main campuses; branches are forgotten or
given just a few crumbs to get by."
said the election ended in a tie between herself and the other female
both were asked to come back to the stage for another three-minute
speech," she said.
one representative from each tribal campus voting to break the tie,
Tso came out on top. Her term of office runs through March 2005.
the election she said she rushed back home to give a PowerPoint
presentation to Western Agency Council Delegates at the Inscription
House Chapter, which covered the same topic of her campaign speech,
"Foundation and Growth of Diné College Tuba City Campus."
Joseph, Director of the Tuba City Campus of Diné College,
said Tso presented a resolution for support from each chapter delegate
within the Western Agency for a $25 million campus development project.
pointed out the campus now only has two buildings, a hogan donated
by the American Indian College Fund and an eight-classroom building
resulting from Arizona Compact legislation and funded by sales tax
said she plans to bring tribal colleges closer together to work
on issues at the national level and is starting to gather data on
what each is pursuing. She is also collecting positive and negative
feedback via e-mail on this year's AIHEC annual conference. Diné
College and seven other tribal colleges will co-sponsor the March
2005 conference in Albuquerque, N.M.
said he is very proud of Tso's national office.
has been a breathtaking experience for me," Joseph said. "I first
got to know Violet a year ago at our college symposium where she
volunteered to be a host. Since then she has become very activea
voice for our community and our students."
students at Diné College formed their own local Tuba City
student government last fall, they elected Tso as their first president.
went on to point out that Tso is a role model.
has a family, she's a wife, a student and her mother's caretaker,"
he said. "We are all proud of her here in Tuba City. With this title
she will have the opportunity to work with other tribal colleges.
We plan to do everything we can to support her."
Joseph said he's looking for office space for Tso on campus as well
as funding sources for her travel. A summer AIHEC retreat is planned
as well as at least two AIHEC related trips to Washington, D.C.
in the next year.
will graduate this spring with a double major in liberal arts and
social sciences. She plans to get her bachelor's degree in elementary
education, then a master's in English. She has attended Diné
College on scholarships from the American Indian College Fund and
a Navajo Nation Tribal Scholarship as well as a federal Pell Grant.
out that her father, the late Emmett Tso, served as great example
for her in terms of community involvement. She said he was a Tuba
City Chapter Delegate in the mid-'80s and served on school boards
for Tuba City Unified School District, Tuba City Boarding School
and Greyhills Academy High School.
before he passed away four years ago, he talked to me about living
in a society controlled by mainstream Western Europeans and needing
to be able to read, write and speak at their level in order to protect
our own people, language and culture," Tso said. "That became my
biggest motivation for going back to school and it's why getting
a master's in English is so important to me.
a child, I struggled with two main subjects, math and English. After
talking to my dad, I'm no longer looking at it [the struggle] as
an obstacle but a challenge to master."
thanked staff and instructors for the support she has received throughout
Diné College Tuba City campus. She also thanked her husband,
Darwin, her daughter, Chantel, and her son, Dejay, for "really coming
through for me and taking over responsibilities for me when I leave."
feel like I've brought something home to our students to help motivate
them, encourage them to keep going and strive for their dreams,"
Tso said. "I'm trying to stay grounded with all this. I don't want
it to get overwhelming and cause me to lose focus on the issues.
By taking it one step at a time, it will get done."