Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye speaking at the 2018 NAGSA Summer Conference on Wednesday, July 18
Published July 23, 2018
PHOENIX — Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye gave his remarks at the final day of the 2018 Native American Grant School Association (NAGSA) Summer Conference providing an overview of the Navajo Nation’s support for education.
“What we need are highly educated Navajos in business, law and medicine,” President Begaye said. “We need people with certain types of skill sets in aeronautics and additive manufacturing. So, we set up scholarships with different institutions across the country to prepare the future workforce of Navajo.”
In 2016, the Navajo Nation awarded approximately $20 million to Navajo students through a total number of 8,721 scholarship awards. In 2017, the Navajo Nation awarded over $24 million to Navajo students through a total number of more than 9,423 scholarship awards.
Earlier this year, President Begaye signed an agreement with the University of New Mexico for at least 118 rooms for Navajo students at the Lobo Rainforest Dormitory. He also signed legislation providing $14.3 million to build on-campus housing at Navajo Technical University.
“Under the Begaye administration further efforts are being taken to provide housing for Navajo students,” he said, “because we need to invest in our future generations and finding housing is one of the biggest obstacles they face at the college level.”
President Begaye also used his time to address concerns that the administration is trying to do away with school boards. However, under the Public Law 100-297, which requires a governing body, doing away with school boards is not an option.
At the conference, there were breakout sessions on 21st Century Schools program, how to be effective with Native American students, basic counseling skills for non-clinical professionals, and updates on software programs that could be utilized by educators.
There included training from the Navajo Nation Department of Diné Education, Diné Bi Olta School Board Association, Bureau of Indian Education, Arizona Department of Education, Arizona School Board Association and more.
Invitations were sent out to school boards and administrative staff throughout the country. Approximately 100 people attended the three-day conference that took place from July 16-18.
The target audience of the conference was the school board members who serve Native American students, said Royd Lee, president of NAGSA.
“We’re heading in a new direction partnership wise to build stronger relationships at the federal, state and tribal level,” Lee said. “It’s a whole new direction, a stronger direction because we’re all here for the students. That’s the number one goal.”
Additional topics at the conference, geared toward school board members, covered updates on the new Arizona laws regarding teacher qualifications and the certification process, federal funding requirements, and ethical guidelines and responsibilities.