FLAGSTAFF -- With plans to attend Brown University and become a pediatrician, 15-year-old Natasha Slaughter has a clear vision of what her future looks like, but her past is a bit fuzzier. The Flagstaff High School sophomore is working to bring her Navajo culture into clearer focus.
"I want to be able to speak to my grandparents who live in Grand Falls and have a better connection with my heritage," she says.
Slaughter is building this connection through a Basic Navajo Language class at FHS. Instructor Loren Hudson teaches an unusually large class of 32 students, all Navajo or half Navajo teens, who want to learn their native language.
"These students are doing an amazing job grasping the culture and the language," he said.
FHS Assistant Principal Mike Moran pointed out Hudson also is doing an amazing job.
"He is a great role model," Moran said. "He's inspired a lot of Navajo kids and had a huge impact on our school."
And, there is an added bonus with this class. Through a partnership with Coconino Community College, Basic Navajo Language is one of a number of dual enrollment classes taught at the high school. This means that students are earning college and high school credit at the same time.
CCC Tech Prep Coordinator Ann Black said there are a number of other benefits for dual enrollment students.
"It gives students a taste of college and the confidence that they can do college work," Black said. "The credit they earn may be transferable to other colleges or universities and dual enrollment classes save families money as they don't pay for college tuition, fees or books while the students are in high school."
It is estimated that in this school year alone, tuition savings add up to some $250,000 for dual enrollment students. Currently, CCC has 748 high school students from all over the county earning college credit. Those students make up some 16.5 percent of the college's student population, up 8 percent from last spring.
"CCC has offered vocational courses such as drafting, computer classes, construction and culinary arts to schools throughout the county for years, but there is a big demand from the high schools that we offer academic courses such as college algebra, college composition and calculus," said CCC Registrar and Director for Admissions Steve Miller.
Moving in this new direction, Basic Navajo Language is the first course of this kind being offered at Flagstaff and Sinagua high schools for college credit.
High schools offering dual enrollment programs include Alchesay, Blue Ridge, Chinle, Coconino, Flagstaff, Fredonia, Ganado, Grand Canyon, Greyhills Academy, Page, Sinagua, Tuba City and Williams.
The dual enrollment program in Page has included both vocational and academic classes for the last four years.
(Bonnie Stevens is Marketing and Public Relations Director at Coconino Community College.)