TSAILE, Ariz. - Emotions were high as 154 students awaited to receive recognition for their accomplishments at the 43rd anniversary commencement ceremony on May 10 at Diné College. The celebration included recognition of prominent faculty and supporters of the first Native American higher education institution.
Diné College President Maggie George presided over the ceremony.
"They deserve it and I'm proud of the students for making the sacrifices. We provided them with the skills to accomplish their dreams, now it's up to them how they want to pursue the next challenges in their lives," said George.
The hard work and sacrifice made by the students were celebrated as they exited the tent to be greeted by their friends and family members. The atmosphere was both joyous and sorrowful as the students expressed their emotions.
Attending Diné College and obtaining her degree was an accomplishment that was not foreseen in Glorianna Morris' future. After losing her son six years ago, she was motivated by family members to preoccupy her time.
"I'm very proud of myself, but I did this for my son. He wanted to become an electrical engineer, and I did this for him," said Morris as she held onto a picture of her late son Timothy Hoskie.
Morris, 51 of Naschitti, N.M., received her associate degree in social and behavioral science. Her triumphs are a testimony to her grandchildren that anything can be achieved with a little hard work and dedication.
Among the recipients recognized for their achievements was faculty of the college in attendance from each of the eight campuses on the Navajo Reservation. Diné College's presence on the Navajo Nation includes the communities of Tuba City, Ganado, Chinle, Window Rock, Kayenta, Shiprock and Crownpoint with Tsaile being the central location.
The commencement ceremony also marked a significant moment for the keynote speaker, Executive Director of the White House Initiative On American Indian and Alaska Native Education William Mendoza.
"It's an honor to be here with the students. It's really a special time and it represents 40 years that tribes and the Diné Nation has led this effort, being the first tribal college where Indian people are taking control of education and understanding. They have a contribution to make to broaden education efforts of this country," he said.
Mendoza, Oglala-Singacu Lakota, captivated the audience with his relationship and visits to the Navajoland. In his message, Mendoza mentioned the importance of their accomplishments by highlighting the demographics of Native American education.
"We graduate 60 American Indian students a year per 100. Of these 60 students we estimate that 21 will attend some form of post-secondary education and of those 21 only two will graduate from a four-year college. It takes us (American Indians) 2,500 ninth graders to produce one masters degree and 12,000 students to produce one doctorate. I think in that context you can see how your contributions improve the state of American Indian education," Mendoza said.
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