CROWNPOINT, NM — On Friday, December 8, 2017, Navajo Technical University held its 38th fall commencement ceremony at its main campus to award 162 certificates, associate, baccalaureate and master’s degrees. Both the institution and its students reached significant milestones for the 2017 academic year, highlighted by the conferring of the first certificates in Navajo Tribal Court Transcription and a special recognition of four graduates of the Early Childhood Multicultural Education program who earned their state teaching certification.
Former Navajo Nation Chief Justice Allen Sloan was the commencement speaker and expressed his best wishes to the students in a speech entirely in the Navajo Language. He told the students of how there were many sacrifices made in the past and that we must continue to move forward into the future with the best intentions for the Navajo people.
“As you sat at the light studying, there may have been many times you felt like giving up, but you didn’t. Life learning does not end, it continues. It becomes your medicine bundle,” said Sloan, who announced his retirement as Chief Justice earlier this year. “Stand before us because we as leaders seek those who are educated to take over our positions.”
Seven graduates who will be assuming new positions with the Navajo Nation graduated with a certificate in Navajo Tribal Court Transcription. The pilot program was developed to provide a transcription to court proceedings, and recruited employees from the Navajo Nation Judicial Branch. The program began in August with students transcribing the Navajo language to English. They addressed the challenges of regional dialects and identifying correct meanings for terminology to be used in the judicial system. Students completing the certificate included: Peggy Bahe, Teesto, AZ; Ruby K. Frank, Pine Hill, NM; Rhiannon Guerrro, Crownpoint, NM; Shirley M. Leonard, Lukachukai, AZ; Ronda Lewis, Tohatchi, NM; Joann Plummer, Rock Point, AZ; and Maris J. Roe, Pine Hill, NM.
During the graduation, the University also recognized its first cohort of early childhood educators who graduated with their New Mexico Teacher Assessment for certification when Dr. Juanita Becenti recognized students Nicole Francisco, Caren Maddison, Emmalena Todecheenie, and Suzanna Clark-Nakai. Each student obtained their Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Multicultural Education, which paired with their certification, makes them work eligible.
“The teacher graduates are first to be teacher-ready with certifications and are available to obtain jobs immediately with Gallup McKinley County Schools, Central Consolidated Schools, and the Bureau of Indian Education,” explained Dr. Becenti. “We are so proud of them and all of our graduates. We want to wish them the best in their journey as educators and professionals.”
In total, NTU conferred 95 certificates, 47 associate degrees, 19 baccalaureate degrees, and 1 master’s degree at its fall commencement. Warlance Chee of Lake Valley, NM became the fourth NTU student to earn the Master of Arts degree in Diné Culture, Language & Leadership. Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez was also in attendance to congratulate students.
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