Navajo Nation Leaders to Chief Manuelito Scholars: Education is Key to the Future

President Begaye (left) and Vice President Nez (right) stand with the 2017 Chief Manuelito Scholars who gathered for the award ceremony.

Published July 26, 2017

SAN JUAN COLLEGE – Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez attended the 2017 Chief Manuelito Scholarship Award Ceremony, imparting to the scholars that continuing education is the key to the future.

“This generation has the great opportunity to conceptualize solutions in ways that have never been thought of before,” President Begaye said. “The technology we have today is amazing. Let’s be a nation that builds drones, robots and cell phones.”

The award ceremony took place at the San Juan College, Henderson Fine Arts Center in Farmington, New Mexico, on Friday, July 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Begaye-Nez administration has prioritized investing in the Navajo people by seeking out and hiring educated tribal members into top-level positions.  The president told the scholars that the Nation will move forward by utilizing the educated minds of the next generation.

The Begaye-Nez administration continues to advocate for education, said Vice President Jonathan Nez. The door has been opened by President Begaye, he said, for educated and experienced Navajo professionals to return home to advance the Navajo Nation forward.

“The door is open for you to come home and help our nation. We were told from a young age to get an education, return home and help our people. That’s the challenge we continue to propose to you,” Vice President Nez said.

Encouraging the Chief Manuelito scholars to remain focused on their educational goals, Vice President Nez said they must also be prepared for personal sacrifice and reaching out for help.

“Sometimes you will have to ask for assistance to find additional resources. The people at the scholarship office and the financial aid staff at the schools are there to help you. People like Vita Allison, who for 30 years, assisted students with financial aid at Northern Arizona University,” he said. “We want you to succeed. We want to see a 100 percent graduation rate for this class.” ​​

Allison was presented a plaque for her 30 years of service at NAU in the financial aid office.

The ceremony hosted former Chief Manuelito Scholar from ’91, Martha Dailey, as the keynote speaker. She said that through her educational journey, she was able to intern for Navajo poet and lecturer Lucy Tapahonso.

When she graduated from high school, Dailey said she was naive and didn’t have a solid path in life.  She told the scholars that there will be times in their lives where they will question their integrity and their knowledge.

“These tests will make you a stronger person. I had to learn hard lessons and had come across failure,” she said. “My suggestion is to find a mentor and to stay mindful of your direction in life.”

Dailey told the group that their families have invested in their futures and want them to succeed.

“You have to invest in yourself.  At night when I pray, I don’t ask to be successful. I ask to be effective,” she said. “Everything you need to be successful in life is already there within you. You just need to feel it. You are the manifestation of a dream that Chief Manuelito had.”

Often the opportunities for success parallel the opportunities to participate in bringing solutions forward. The Nation has partnered with the University of Arizona in a memorandum of understanding to support seven Navajo students interested in pursuing medical degrees.

The Nation has partnered with New Mexico State University in pursuing the development of a medical school on the Navajo Nation.

“Today, problem solving converges with technological development. Our people are involved in coding and assisting in the development of medicines that affect health issues that exist on our lands,” President Begaye said. “We need Navajo scientists to work in these fields. This generation can make the Navajo Nation, the silicon valley of the world.”

For 2017, there are over 260 Chief Manuelito Scholarship recipients.  Scholars must maintain a 3.0 GPA while enrolling in 12 credit hours.  Running deadlines for scholarship applications are Jun. 25 for the fall semester and Nov. 25 for the spring semester.  Recipients must file applications every academic year.

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