Sandra Cheebenally made tracks last month when she took one
of Farmington Municipal School District's 46-passenger, 40-foot
school buses on one of the most notable and treacherous roads in
or Cheesa, as her young passengers call her, was the driver for
a Project Venture trip Nov. 21, designed to expose Farmington students
to the culture and folklore of the Navajo Nation. The destination:
drive proved to be one of the most difficult and challenging of
her 12-year career, Cheebenally said.
couple of humps we came across, and I thought we might have high-centered
it," she said. "I kept thinking, If we get this bus stuck,
we're in big trouble.'"
took the two-mile journey slowly, telling the students it was an
adventure. The trip fit into Project Venture's goals, co-coordinator
Tyson Snyder said.
extracurricular, federally-funded program, which lasts the entire
school year, is open to any student at Tibbetts and Heights middle
schools and Farmington High School. The program's goal is to help
students build self-esteem, self-sufficiency and other skills they
will use later in life, Snyder said.
offer skill-building, leadership, experiential education,"
he said. "A lot is based on outdoor adventure activities. We
do rappelling, camping at Navajo Lake and, of course, the trip to
Shiprock. It's about letting them experience things they otherwise
may not be able to."
30 students participated in the drive to the Shiprock pinnacle.
purpose of going out there was, obviously, it was an outdoor experience,"
Snyder said. "It gave students from Farmington a good idea
of the community and our neighboring cultures."
hiked around the rock, met a Navajo storyteller and shared a meal
of traditional food.
learned that Shiprock was the core of a huge volcano way back a
long time ago," said 13-year-old Jerrett Curtis, a seventh-grade
student who participated in the trip. "Also, there is a lot
of Navajo mythology about it. That was cool."
also celebrated their arrival at the rock, an event Cheebenally
had doubts would occur.
were referring to it as an adventure," she said. "I was
telling the kids that I was a dream maker, and I would make an effort
to get them as close to the rock as possible, but I myself couldn't
believe we drove all the way out there."
parked the bus in the shadow of the rock, having driven all the
way to the end of the dusty and precarious road.
kids were really overjoyed by the fact that we got there,"
she said. "We had to wiggle through the winding roads, and
the clearance on the bottom of the bus is really low. We actually
made it to the base of the rock, and it was unbelievable."
Farmington's proximity to Shiprock, few students have traveled to
the rock formation.
never been to Shiprock," said 11-year-old Cassandra Crowell,
a sixth-grade student at Heights. "It was so big, but when
you're far away, it looks so small. I learned a lot that I didn't
know. I just thought it was a rock that looked like a ship."
the success of the entire event, Cheebenally said the best part
was the drive.
kept thinking What are we doing out here with a bus,'" she
said. "We went where no bus has gone before."