The three top St. Michael Indian School graduates earned the school’s legacy awards during the 72nd commencement on June 4.
The annual awards, including a college scholarship, were given to graduating seniors Gabriella Simpson, Matthew Herrera, and Dayshon Dalgai.
The awards were made possible by financial support from Eve’s Fund for Native American Health Initiatives.
Gabriella Simpson received the St. Katharine Drexel Award, a $1,000 scholarship given to a student with personal dignity and respect for the rights of others.
Simpson plans to attend college, study criminal justice, and pursue her interest in softball.
Matthew Herrera, the class salutatorian, received the Sister Katharine Barrett Award, a $500 scholarship recognizing a student’s service and loyalty to the school community.
Herrera will attend the University of Arizona to study architecture and pre-med.
The class valedictorian, Dayshon Dalgai, received the Sister Mary Honora Award, which includes a $500 scholarship, and honors a student who is respectful of the traditions and culture of the Navajo and other peoples within the school community.
Dalgai has been accepted into the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
Dot Teso, the school’s president, said, “Saint Katharine Drexel, who founded St. Michael Indian School in 1902, envisioned that our graduates would continue their education at universities and colleges around the nation and world.
“It is fitting that Eve’s Fund has partnered with us to advance her vision by providing scholarship awards for our students entering college this fall,” she said.
Eve’s Fund for Native American Health Initiatives is a community-based nonprofit founded by the late Robert M. Crowell and Barbara Crowell Roy in 2005 in memory of their daughter, Eve Erin Crowell.
Certificates awarded for Diné election interpretation, translation
SALT LAKE CITY – On June 13, the nonprofit Rural Utah Project and Navajo Technical University announced the newest graduates of the Navajo Interpretation and Translation for Elections and Voting Program.
Graduates of the program were trained to interpret and translate terms and procedures used in elections to assist Navajo voters. A certificate of completion was awarded to participants.
Esther Yazzie-Lewis, the NTU instructor, led the students as they diligently learned every word associated with elections and created an election terminology dictionary and core curriculum for the program.
She taught students relevant terminology by actively engaging students in Navajo election vocabulary, concepts, and principles.
Tara Benally, field director at the Rural Utah Project, said, “Access to adequate language interpretation services is essential to ensure all Diné people can participate equally in our electoral process.
“As a lifelong resident in San Juan County, Utah,” she said, “I’ve seen how the lack of interpretation harms our elders and causes confusion at polling places.”
The program was started partly as a response to a federal court settlement between San Juan County, Utah, and the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission. The settlement mandates that Diné Bizaad (Navajo language) interpretive services be provided at polling places in San Juan County.
In 2016, the Navajo Human Rights Commission, seven Utah residents of the Navajo Nation, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah filed a lawsuit against San Juan County for violating the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
On Feb. 22, 2018, San Juan County entered into the settlement agreement that resolved the lawsuit for violations related to voting procedures that marginalized the rights of Navajo voters.
The voting rights settlement will be extended into 2024.
Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, said, “Our Navajo language is unique. In many ways, the English language does not correctly interpret and translate our Navajo words.
“My office has taken on the challenge of ensuring that there are properly trained Navajo language interpreters that emphasize on voting issues,” he said.
Yazzie-Lewi, the instructor, said, “I am so proud of the students that took the election terminology training at Navajo Technical University. I am also proud of Navajo Technical University for providing the (money) to make the training a success.”
“I appreciate the support we have received from the Diné at the grassroots level and the partners we have created with entities from the Navajo Nation,” she said. “Ahxéhee’ shi Diné.”
Fort Lewis College receives 1st place in diversity, inclusion challenge
DURANGO, Colo. – Fort Lewis College received a first-place $25,000 award from the U.S. National Science Foundation for its submission in the “Taking Action: COVID-19 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Challenge.”
FLC presented evidence-based steps the college continues to take to mitigate the long-term negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the diversity, equity, and inclusion of undergraduate students in STEM programs.
FLC was selected as the top four-year undergraduate school in the country for its innovative approach to ensuring equity-focused STEM education.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significant continuing effects on educational institutions and student success. At FLC, all these issues are more challenging for Native American students.
Over the past two years, FLC has initiated or is initiating several innovative systemic changes to mitigate these effects and create an environment that supports success for all students.
“We are thrilled NSF has selected us as the first-prize winner for four-year institutions in their COVID-19 Challenge,” said Cheryl Nixon, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “We are even more thrilled that our STEM students are benefitting from the programs that NSF is recognizing.”
Covid increased many challenges among Native American students, especially those pursuing STEM degrees.
NSF distributed $200,000 in cash prizes and acknowledged many institutions with honorable mentions.
Fort Lewis College was awarded the most significant dollar amount within the four-year STEM undergraduate category, including the institutions of Pacific Lutheran University, North Carolina A&T University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Notre Dame, and others.