'Dig into Reading' kicks off in Tuba City

TUBA CITY, August 15, 2013

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TOP: 'Dig into Reading' kicks off in Tuba City

SECOND FROM TOP: Sanostee student to serve on health board





T he Tuba City Public Library ran its first summer reading program to help promote family reading and reduce summer break reading loss, according to a news release from the library.

Every Tuesday the library will hold a weekly story time. Children ages 2 to 12 years old were encouraged to read and participate in reading activities at the library and in their own homes. Parents committed to reading regularly with their children during the six-week program.

The library had over 40 participants in this summer's "Dig into Reading" activities. TCPL's summer reading program was a success, and the library staff is looking forward to continuing the program next summer.

The "Dig into Reading" theme explored gardening, large construction diggers, burrowing animals, and digging up dinosaurs. During each story time, books were read aloud and topics discussed and explored through hands on activities. Additional activities were sent home with participants. The program concluded with a reading celebration at the Louise Yellowman County Park in Tuba City.

Supporters include Tuba City Trading Post, Valley Ridge Mortuary, Chevron, Cal's Auto Collision, Pizza Edge, Bashas', Cellular One, Chick-fil-A, Peter Piper Pizza, and Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library. Donations were used as incentives for reading and participating in weekly story times. The donations also helped make the reading celebration possible and rewarded all participants who completed the summer reading program.

One of the library's main goals for this program was to help the children obtain reading material of their own to keep in their own home and the sponsors have helped make that possible.

Information: call Trish Polacca at 928-283-5856.


Sanostee student to serve on health board

NEW YORK – After a nationwide search, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation announced on July 31 that Danyel Johnson, 12 of Sanostee, N.M. was selected to serve on its 2013-2014 Youth Advisory Board.

Johnson was chosen for her passion to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by inspiring her peers, schools, and communities to live healthier lives.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation, is one of the nation's largest non-profit organizations working to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity. Johnson is entering her 3rd year of service on the board.

The Alliance's Youth Advisory Board is one of the only youth-led advisory groups in the country focused on childhood obesity issues. The 21 youth leaders play an integral role in advising and providing a youth perspective to the organization as the Alliance strives to encourage young people across the nation to make healthy choices. Board members serve as thought-leaders on childhood obesity issues, representing the Alliance at local and national events, interviewing with journalists and health-education experts, engaging with community leaders, and addressing their peers.

"Adults can sit around the table all day and talk about ways to reverse the obesity epidemic in childhood, but unless we have authentic youth perspective in the conversations we aren't going to get very far," said Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. "Our Youth Advisory Board members play a critical role in fighting this epidemic—raising their voices and inspiring their communities to take action."

In addition to their role as advisors and thought-leaders, each board member is responsible for initiating healthy changes in their own neighborhoods and school districts by engaging in service-learning programs in their communities.

As a part of her work Johnson was able to spread awareness to her peers by helping with a school field day event and some fun run/walk events promoting exercise to get the kids up and moving. She also started a health club at a few elementary schools that her little sisters attend.

"I decided to join the Youth Advisory Board because people do not know that we as a Navajo Nation struggle with obesity in our young children, and I wanted to educate young people that changing to live and eat healthy is a choice that has to be made at an early age so that the future is better for them," Johnson said. "It helps them to be more confident in their self-esteem and helps them to be motivated to be active and eat healthy."

The 2013-2014 Board members were selected because of their commitment to leading the way in their hometowns and amongst their peers in spreading the word about the importance of healthy living. They will work with the Alliance to encourage kids across the country to take charge of their health, motivating all youth to make healthy behavior changes and to become leaders and advocates for healthy eating and physical activity.


Pinon resident named All-American Scholar

PINON, Ariz. – The United States Achievement Academy has named Dakoda Begay, of Pinon, Ariz., an All-American Scholar, according to a USAA news release.

Begay, who attends Pinon High School, was nominated for this honor by Mrs. Mountz. Begay will appear in the All-American Scholar Yearbook, which is published nationally.

Begay is the daughter of George Begay and Lolita Smiley, of Pinon. Grandparents are the late Joe L. and Rita Smiley of Coyote Canyon, N.M., and Julia Begay and the late Guy Begay of Pinon.


Colleges to create council on workforce development

SHOW LOW, Ariz. - Three northern Arizona community colleges have entered into an unprecedented agreement to improve workforce development among populations living along rural stretches of the Interstate 40 corridor, according to a news release from Northland Pioneer College.

Northland Pioneer, Coconino and Mohave community colleges recently entered into an intergovernmental agreement to create the I-40 Corridor Coordinating Council. The Council will provide a cooperative higher education network for residents living along the more than 300-mile interstate that travels through Arizona's four most northern counties: Mohave, Coconino, Navajo and Apache.

"NPC is very excited to be on the leading edge with this new collaborative agreement," said Jeanne Swarthout, Northland Pioneer's president. "The three institutions have worked diligently for several years to identify the most efficient means to bring together the resources of all three institutions to enhance education and job opportunities throughout the communities along the I-40 corridor.

"The collaborative agreement allows all three colleges to provide more opportunities to their students than any one of the three could do alone. We look forward to the day when a student receives a certificate or degree printed with the names of all three community colleges," Swarthout added.

As the colleges move forward in developing the new mobile programs, the Arizona Board of Regents, which governs the state's universities, praised the new partnership.

"The innovative objectives of the Council to enhance workforce development for residents of the I-40 corridor dovetail with the Arizona Board of Regents' aggressive goal to expand access to higher education and increase statewide educational attainment levels to fulfill workforce demands and drive a competitive economy," said Eileen I. Klein, president of the Arizona Board of Regents. "We are very supportive of this initiative."

Leaders from the three colleges can now further develop specific academic programs that suit workforce needs along the corridor by sharing data, curriculum development and equipment. Program developers will continue to research how to make the programs mobile to reach populations that are most in need of convenient access to relevant higher education.

Based on workforce data, each college identified a relevant program to develop that could potentially serve populations outside of the three colleges' districts.

Northland is contributing a new mechatronics program to the coalition. It will prepare students for diverse careers in manufacturing, with an emphasis on predictive maintenance, troubleshooting and quality assurance. Courses will develop skills in CAD drawing, mechanics, pneumatics, hydraulics, electricity, motors and their controls, programmable logic controls, robotics and motion control, process control, instrumentation and computer-integrated manufacturing. Initially, the program will be based in a new Skills Center, expected to open this fall, on the Holbrook – Painted Desert Campus. Completion of the program leads to an associate's degree.

Mohave will begin to offer a new Certified Production Technician program this fall to certify individuals who demonstrate mastery of the core competencies of manufacturing production at the frontline. The four-course program consists of four individual certificate modules: safety; quality practices and measurement; manufacturing processes and production; and maintenance awareness.

Coconino Community College already utilizes a mobile training unit to provide renewable energy training, including photovoltaic (solar), water/waste water, green building and weatherization classes for onsite classes in and outside of Coconino County. These classes are noncredit, industry certification classes, but can provide a pathway into a credit-bearing associate degree. CCC offers associate degrees in alternative energy and green building.

Collectively, the three community colleges serve a population base of over 514,000, with 19 campuses and centers throughout the four-county I-40 corridor.



'Game-like' workshop to teach students financial literacy

FLAGSTAFF - Real-world financial responsibilities aren't exactly fun and games but a new interactive workshop created at Northern Arizona University uses a game-like environment to show Native American teens how their financial choices can have real consequences, according to a NAU news release.

"Here in Arizona, there are a handful of tribes whose members receive tribal trust funds when they turn 18, or sometimes 21," said Levi Esquerra, program director for NAU's Center for American Indian Economic Development. "They can be pretty sizable, and at that age, they might not spend it wisely."

But the topic of fiscal responsibility—particularly with young people—isn't necessarily an attention-grabber. So Esquerra invited NAU students from the Native American Business Organization and the Omicron Delta Epsilon economic honor society to help him make a game of it.

"The goal is to teach them that this is a great opportunity, a great gift; spend it wisely," Esquerra said.

The roots of the project can be traced back to 2011, when Craig Van Slyke was named dean of NAU's Franke College of Business. With his new university demonstrating a strong commitment to serving Native students, Van Slyke was eager to understand the needs of Arizona tribal communities and how NAU plays a role. As he began meeting with tribes throughout the state, the need for increased financial literacy emerged.

"If you get a check with commas in it and you're 18 years old, your first impulse is to go out and just blow all that money, right? That's what I would have done," Van Slyke said. "So you buy a new car, maybe get your own apartment and the next thing you know, this money that could have been a cushion for you, could have helped provide for your education, could have helped buy your first house when you start a family … it's gone."

When the Salt River Pima-Maricopa tribal community requested NAU's help last summer in bridging this divide, it put into motion the development of a financial literacy program targeting Native youth. In April, Esquerra and his students rolled out the Seven Generation Money Management Game, named for the idea that by reflecting on the past and future three generations, Native teens will remain grounded in their financial decisions as they move forward in life.

The game begins when the players are given a large hypothetical sum of money to spend at different "businesses" around the room, ranging from housing, insurance, colleges and investors, to cars, travel, furniture and electronics. NAU students act as merchants and help the players learn how to make transactions—like signing an apartment lease, opening a bank account or searching for college scholarships—bringing attention to opportunities to save or manage their money based on the choices they make.

"By having college students facilitate these activities, they're more likely to listen because it's like having their peers explain their options," Esquerra said. Along the way, players are thrown unexpected challenges—a flat tire or a broken refrigerator, for example.

"Life happens," Esquerra said. "They'll need to figure out how to fix their predicaments with whatever funds they have left."

Rather than teaching them how and where to spend their money, the game is designed to get them thinking about the real-life scenarios the teens are likely to encounter so they are better prepared for their future financial options.

"My ultimate goal is to help students be successful—not just in the classroom, but in life," said Van Slyke, who believes teaching Native youth to value financial literacy will contribute to stronger tribal communities.

While it was designed with Native teens in mind, it can also serve as an exercise for anyone facing important financial decisions, such as financing a business or developing a family budget.

"Strong financial literacy is a foundation for life," Esquerra said.


Number of charter schools growing on BIA lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – New data from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools shows that public charter schools are growing on Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) lands across the country. Between 2005 and 2010, the number of public charter schools on reservations increased from 19 to 31, accounting for 15 percent of all public schools on reservations.

Public charter schools are on reservations located in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. Most Native American charter schools – 61 percent – are on reservations geographically located in Arizona and California. Between the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years, there was a 100 percent increase in the number of public charter schools and charter school enrollment on Native lands geographically located in California.

In 1995, Congress put in place a temporary moratorium on new educational programs funded by the BIA, which has yet to be lifted. The moratorium prohibits the opening of new Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)-operated schools or the expansion of grade levels offered in existing BIE-operated schools. Public charter schools, which are operated independently from the Bureau of Indian Education, therefore provide options for Native Americans to open and expand their own schools on their own lands.

A variety of state or tribal agencies have approved charter school applications. Bay Mills Community College, a community college in Michigan controlled by the Bay Mills Indian Community, authorized its first two public charter schools in 2001 and now authorizes 44 charter schools. One of the charter schools, Ojibwe Charter School, is located on BIA lands and serves a majority Native American population. The other charter schools are located in 27 non-reservation cities throughout the state and enroll largely African-American students, consistent with the college's mission to serve students who are urban, minority and/or poor.

In 2012, the Cherokee Nation became the first Native American tribe to authorize a charter school. The tribe is the authorizer of the Tsunadeloquasdi Immersion School in Oklahoma, which in 2011 served 112 pre-kindergarten through 8th grade students.

"The growth in charter schools and student enrollment on Native American reservations shows that charter schools are increasingly providing Native communities with a viable schooling option to meet their educational needs," says Anna Nicotera, the senior director of research and evaluation at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "Charter schools also allow Native people the freedom to tailor education as they see fit, including integrating language and culture into educational experiences, and refocusing on specific learning needs of Native students."

Over the past several decades Native American students have had some of the worst student outcomes compared to other student populations in U.S. schools. Less than 60 percent of students graduate from Bureau of Indian Education schools and roughly 20 percent meet proficient or advanced academic standards in mathematics and reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Public charter schools are aiming to improve student learning and some schools are beginning to succeed. The National Charter School Resource Center recently published a case study of the Akimel O'Otham Pee Posh Charter School, a public charter school created to expand the grade levels available on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona. Harvard University released a report that outlines the attributes and practices of three successful charter schools serving native youth.

"Some of the initial academic results coming out of public charter schools on reservations are encouraging. But we need more data on a variety of measures to determine how well charter schools are serving Native American students," said Nicotera.


Dyron Murphy Architects to host first student sketch competition

ALBUQUERQUE - Dyron Murphy Architects, P.C. invites all Native American students, grades K-12, to participate the company's first Student Architect Sketch Competition (SASC).

Submissions will be accepted from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1. Winners will be announced by Oct. 31.

"The SASC gives Native students an opportunity to explore the concepts of architecture through both creativity as well as the critical thinking that goes into the planning and design of any building. We think it's important to offer this exposure to students, especially at a time of severe budget cuts which are limiting their accessibility to fine arts and after school programs," said Dyron Murphy, owner of Dyron Murphy Architects, P.C.

The theme for this year's SASC is "Your School, Reimagined," in which students can express what their dream school would look and feel like through a hand-drawn sketch, according to the news release.

The submissions will be judged by the staff at DMA based on drawing skill, creativity, originality, representation of the contest theme, and adherence to the rules.

There will be winners in four grade-level categories that will receive artist prize packs and will be featured with their design on the DMA website and blog. All non-winning submissions will also be proudly displayed on the website, and one additional winner will be selected through a public vote and also win an artist prize pack.

As an additional service to the community, DMA will provide teachers with free, optional "mini" lesson plans written for each grade level upon request.  These lessons are designed to help students develop critical thinking and reasoning skills, develop their own learning styles, and learn how to apply communication, math, science, and history to the real world through exposure to architecture.

DMA is a Native American owned architecture firm that offers comprehensive and innovative design solutions for all project types.

Information: www.dyronmurphy.com.


Diné College, Navajo enterprises begin talks of future partnerships

TSAILE, Ariz. - Representatives from several Navajo Nation Enterprises were at Diné College on Aug. 14 to discuss opportunities for students, according to a news release from the college.

Nathaniel Yazzie, CEO of the Navajo Nation Shopping Centers, Michelle Dotson, of Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise (NNGE), Tom Arviso Jr., CEO of the Navajo Times, and Dwight Largie from the Office Vice President of the Navajo Nation were in attendance for the roundtable discussion.

Diné College department chairs provided information of their departments and how their curriculum can align with job opportunities for students at the enterprises. The discussions led to the proposed Business Bachelor of Arts program at Diné College.

"Our goal is to create opportunities for our students who complete their degree or certificate programs," said Dean of Academics Abraham Bitok. "Partnerships with various Navajo Nation enterprises and businesses are the first steps in making these opportunities a reality, they will also give potential students an incentive to attend Diné College."

The enterprise representatives discussed how classes at Diné College would benefit their organizations.

Dotson of the NNGE said the classes for the new bachelor of arts degree would be useful for behind the scenes operations at NNGE.

"We want to work with Diné College and recruit students to help them achieve success with the gaming enterprise," said Dotson.

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