PINON, ARIZONA Ninety-two 2014 Navajo high school graduates
have been honored with the Navajo Nation's top academic achievement
award, the Chief Manuelito Scholarship.
The high-achieving students from across the Navajo Nation and
as far away as Chandler, Las Vegas, Farmington, Flagstaff, Gallup
and one home schooled student each introduced themselves in Navajo
here at the annual Chief Manuelito Scholarship banquet July 18 and
told proud parents and friends where they intended to go to college.
While several will attend Arizona State University, Northern
Arizona University and the University of New Mexico, others have
been accepted to Stanford University, Brown University, Dartmouth
College, Yale University, Brigham Young University as well as Navajo
Technical University, Laramie County Community College, Utah State
University Blanding, and the Colorado School of Mines, among
Navajo Nation Vice President Rex Lee Jim, a graduate of Princeton
University, told the students that his 101-year-old grandfather
once told him he wished he could live another 10 years. Why, Jim
"So I can learn another song, another prayer,
and do another ceremony for someone else, and I would love to
learn another ceremony," Jim said his grandfather told him. "To
have that kind of attitude, life long learning. Life long learning
is so important."
He told the students that some people think they know everything
once they get their degree or a Ph.D.
"I don't want you going that route," he said. "Be like my grandfather,
100 years old and still be willing to learn.
The Chief Manuelito Scholarship was established in 1980 to provide
scholarships to high achieving Navajo high school graduates. They
are awarded based on ACT/SAT test scores and final high school grade
Students receive $7,000 annually to cover direct educational
expenses associated with attending a post-secondary institution.
Students must complete required Navajo language and Navajo government
courses prior to high school graduation.
Once in college, they need to maintain a 3.0 GPA and be a fulltime
student. If they do, they can receive their scholarship for four
Vice President Jim presented both Peabody Energy and the Salt
River Project with a plaque in recognition of their more than $5.24
million financial contribution to the scholarship program since
Both contributed $5,000 for this year's banquet.
speaker Mariah Nicole Claw of Chinle is a student at Dartmouth College
in Hanover, New Hampshire, and a Chief Manuelito Scholar who will
graduate in 2015.
She told the scholars that they are now part of a special fellowship.
"Each one of you has earned the honor of calling yourself a
Chief Manuelito Scholar, which, of course, includes a very pretty
monetary reward," she said. "This scholarship, this gift, that you
will be receiving should not be taken for granted. This award is
far more than financial assistance. It is the manifestation of one
of our great leader's wishes."
She said even though it has been almost 150 years since Chief
Manuelito spoke about education, the Navajo people are still atop
the dry mesa he described and the greater society still has a hold
on many of the things Navajo people need.
"I firmly believe that if we are to see positive
changes in our communities, we must assume responsibility, for
we are the future of the Navajo Nation," Ms. Claw said. "We are
the generation that has access to a college education, unlike
our grandparents and parents. Whether we hope to become doctors,
engineers, lawyers, educators, or whatever else, this scholarship
is a means to lifting ourselves out of our current state as a
She reminded the students, "T'aa hwo' aaji t'eego (It's up to
you). I believe in you. And I know that you will make every person
who is on your team so very proud."
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Dwight Witherspoon who served
as emcee advised the students to learn their college's system to
be able to graduate as soon as possible. Just as important, he said,
is to not be afraid to seek assistance when they need it.
"Learn to ask for help," he said. "Don't hide things and keep
it hidden from parents or professors, from colleagues, from friends.
There are places on campus where you can get help, tutoring, advice,
encouragement. Many people have gone through what you're going to
be going through and certainly they are there to be able to help."
With some schools' tuition costs from $20,000 to $50,000 per
year, he said they should get good at applying for other scholarships
besides the Chief Manuelito Scholarship. Some scholarship programs
don't receive enough applicants for their funds.
"Literally you can get paid to go to school," Witherspoon said.
"But you have to put in the 20 hours to identify the scholarships
and apply for the scholarships and send them off. That will be the
easiest money you never have to pay back."
He added that their first semester grades will determine the
availability of hundreds of other scholarships they can apply for.