TSAILE, Ariz. — Several hundred family members and friends packed Diné College’s Piñon Pit recently for the 50th graduation commencement — which consisted of a near record number of bachelor degree and certificate recipients.
The 2019 graduation represented the fourth largest graduating class in the history of the college — established in 1968 and the first tribally-controlled institution of higher learning in the U.S.
Among those graduating were three students earning bachelor’s of science degrees in biology and 16 other students receiving bachelor’s of arts degrees in psychology. Both programs were put into place over the past two years.
207 students graduates
There were 207 students that graduated, several with certificates, dozens of associate of arts and science degrees — 11 bachelor’s of arts in elementary education, 12 bachelor’s of arts degrees in business administration and six associate’s of arts degrees in Diné Studies.
“Congratulations to the (Diné College) Class of 2019,” said Commencement Speaker and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. Nez is a former Diné College student. “Your ancestors never gave up, just as you sitting here today — you never gave up,” he said.
Tom Platero, executive director of the Navajo Nation Office of Legislative Services, the board chairman at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint and a 2000 Diné College graduate, earned a certificate in Navajo Nation Leadership. Platero recommended the certificate for chapter officials and council delegates.
“I learned so much from taking this program,” Platero said.
In addition to family and friends of graduates, several notable officials from around the Navajo Nation attended, among them (Arizona) State Rep. Arlando Teller, D-Chinle, (Arizona) Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Cameron, Navajo Nation Council Delegates Mark Freeland, Amber Kanazbah Crotty, Elmer Begay, Eugenia Charles-Newton, Nathaniel Brown, Myron Tsosie and Daniel Tso, who is the newest member of the Diné College Board of Regents.
Chad Hamill, vice president for Native American Initiatives at Northern Arizona University, also attended.
Navajo Nation Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne and the reigning Miss Navajo Nation, Autumn Montoya of Na’neelzhiin, New Mexico, attended, too. Jayne is a University of Montana law graduate, a former member of the Montana House of Representatives and the third female to serve the Navajo Nation Chief Justice post.
The commencement ceremony was filmed by the Navajo Nation Film Office and streamed via Facebook where it reached about 24,000 and saw 12,000 view the event, according to livestream data.
“This year the Marketing and Communications Department organized a web livestream of the entire graduation with a pre-show,” said George Joe, Diné College director of Marketing and Communications. “We wanted to broadcast the graduation ceremony to others beyond the Navajo Nation so they could join the celebration. We got a lot of feedback from people who watched from across the country.”
Diné College President Charles Monty Roessel wished graduates well in their future endeavors. The message didn’t fall on deaf ears.
“I want to continue to make a difference,” said biology graduate Cordell Chee of Chinle.
Chee earned a bachelor’s of science degree and plans to attend Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff come Fall 2019.
“One step at a time. For myself, for my family and for the environment,” Chee said.
Information provided by Diné College
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