Hopi High students to make Harvard history

POLACCA—Eight students from Hopi High School will become the first high school students in the nation to study at Harvard this summer as part of a pilot program.

Dr. David Potter, professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, said Hopi High School was selected for a simple reason—they asked.

Potter said Harvard takes pride in training people throughout the country to serve as leaders. In 1999, Hopi High School invited Harvard to visit and the discussion turned into how Harvard could help Hopi High students.

“This is a creative, promising, new program. It’s fun to come up with something new. It’s not just more of the same,” Potter said. “This has never been done before. It is a concerted, full-time effort for these kids.”

Teacher Thomas Mentzer said Hopi High was fortunate to have eight highly capable students prepared for this task.

“I truly believe this experience will change their lives,” he said. “This is an opportunity to study at arguably the finest university in the world and be surrounded by the greatest teachers and students. This will remove any shroud of uncertainty that education at that level is a possibility for them.”

Mentzer emphasized that he has always felt that the students at Hopi High School receive a tremendous education. “Now we’ll get to put it on the table,” he said.

The eight Hopi High School students selected for the summer program are Courtney Lucas, Thurman Tacheene, Ty Zahne, John Lucas, Lovelda Chase, Darlene Leslie, Eva Bahnimptewa and Kim Zahne. They will be supervised by both Mentzer and teacher David Loveland.

Four of the students will study at Harvard’s medical school and the other four at the School of Design.

The eight were selected by Loveland and Mentzer based on their academics, character and reliable personalities.

“We want this to be a good academic experience. If a student does that at Harvard, then there is no place that will be intimidating to a student. That’s why Hopi put tremendous effort into this,” Potter said. “These eight students are headed for leadership.”

“There is a spirit at the school that is unusual and attractive,” he said.

Hopi High Principal David Herbert emphasized that the ultimate goal is to have Hopi High students accepted into Harvard. He added that Superintendent Reynolds and the Governing Board have been supportive of this partnership with Harvard and had the foresight to realize the benefits for the students.

The program will run from June 9-30 at a cost of about $50,000-$80,000, which will be funded through private donations that fund Harvard projects. Hopi High School will pay for some of the incidental expenses.

Mentzer said he is tremendously excited that Harvard has opened its doors to Hopi High students.

“I think it’s truly a sincere effort on their part to encourage Native American students to participate in the arena of higher education at its finest level,” he said. “I am particularly grateful to Dr. Potter for his personal commitment to this program. Dr. Potter has taken it upon himself to ensure that Harvard’s charter is true to its word.”

Harvard’s charter states that the university would educate all youth, including Native American youth, but some question whether they have fulfilled that goal during the past 300 years.


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