I was invited to spend a day at preschool with my friend Lavina. They were having a traditional day- dressing in traditional outfits- and a powwow.
Aren’t they adorable?!?
The school system here is a collection of systems run by different entities, and parents can choose whatever system they want (as long as they are willing to provide the transportation if it is out of town!)
Here’s my understanding of the schools (as best as I can tell!)
There are charter schools that are owned by groups of people in a town or village. These schools are funded by grants that those owners apply for each year. The school system in Rough Rock is a charter system. The buildings are really nice and well-kept up, and they offer some really unique programs that are funded by grants. One of these programs is called the FACE (Family and Child Education) program. This is such a cool program- it has home-based resources, such as sending teachers out to work with parents, helping them get their kids ready for starting school, or offering classes for parents and kids. It also has school-based programs where the parents attend school with the kids to learn new skills that can help them in the job market (like computers) and the parents spend part of each day with the kids, learning along with them, so they are better equipped to help with homework. They take field trips together and I’ve noticed that it has become like a club. This group of parents goes on picnics together and hikes together. Delbert and Lula are involved in this and I keep telling them that this group of people is a perfect place for them to start sharing about God’s love for the Navajo! I’ve been invited to a couple of activities, but they were cancelled because of weather- I’m really excited to meet this group!
There are also state-run schools. These are under the state of Arizona and fall under all of the guidelines required by the state.
Finally, there are BIA schools that are nationally governed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. These are also funded by grants, but those grants are applied for by the Navajo Nation government in Window Rock.
Many parents feel very strongly about where they send their kids to school and often send them far away. Because of this, most schools (even elementary!) offer boarding options during the week. I met parents at the trading post a few weeks ago who live WAY up on the mesa- at least a 2 hour drive on treacherous roads. They were eating lunch at the trading post and waiting for their kids to get out of school for the weekend so they could pick them up and take them home.
Something else I have noticed about schools here- they almost ALL have Indian-themed mascots. The Warriors, the Chiefs, the Braves…. I was a little surprised at this because of all the controversy surrounding these names in the anglo world. I asked if they are offended by this use of Indian names for our schools and they laughed and said that white people worry about funny things.
School starts with Preschool. There are Head Starts run by the BIA, not in every town, but usually close enough to drive to. I visited a Head Start where Lavina teaches. They had maybe 40 kids in 2 classes. They serve breakfast, have a health check to make sure the kids have not been abused and to remind them of things like washing and brushing. The kids go through things like shapes and numbers and colors and weather in English and in Navajo! They have lessons and games and crafts and PE. Then they have lunch and go home.
Elementary and high schools fall into the above mentioned programs. One exception is the Navajo Preparatory School in Farmington, NM. This is a privately run school for top-of-the-class students to attend high school. The parents have to pay tuition and the students board there. Kids want to go here. They work hard in school so that they will be accepted by this school. It is the best step for going away to college.
College on the Navajo Nation is fairly limited, most students go off the reservation to get a degree. The Nation does have a college called Dine’ University. It is a two year university offering a variety of associates degrees and a certificate in Navajo studies. The commute to this college is incredibly long for many students. My friend Rod rides for 2 hours each way to get to class. There are dorms, but it is often less expensive to buy a bus ticket than to pay room and board.
Here are some pictures inside one of the dorms. The buildings are octagonal in shape and built like hogans, the traditional Navajo building. I just LOVE the lounge area in the center with that big fireplace!!!
I was invited to attend an awards banquet with my friend Rod this week and he received an award in Psychology, the degree he is pursuing. It was an interesting day. It was very similar to award banquets at other colleges, but there were last names like Smallmountain, Winterblossom and Blacksheep- and there were awards for best weaving and best moccasin making (and let me tell you- her moccasins were SUPER cute!).
I asked Rod if there were any Christian organizations at Dine University and he just looked at me funny. Like churches? I tried to explain the idea of campus ministry and outreach. It wasn’t anything he had ever heard of at Dine’ University. I looked around the room and thought, if I ever were called to work with the Navajo longer than these few months, this is where I’d want to be. Making moccasins and teaching about Jesus- lol!
I am still praying about what this fall holds. I’m open to whatever God directs me in- but so far I don’t have anything I feel He is really calling me specifically to. So I will be obedient for today and enjoy this journey!
I have the blessing of being able to go and visit some of my favorite people in the world this weekend in San Diego. Paul and Andreya Armstrong are one of the reasons I’m even here. They have done so much in discipleship and encouragement in my life- I’m so excited to see them and soak up some of their wisdom and insight! So pray for Casper and I as we travel this weekend. We are stopping off in Vegas (yikes!) and Death Valley (I hope to get a photo of Casper playing dead….) on the way there. Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement! I hope you enjoyed learning a little about the educational structure here. I certainly enjoyed learning so many new things this week!
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17