Indian Wells resident Rosabel Sekayumptewa selected to Northland Pioneer College’s governing board

Navajo County School Superintendent Jalyn Gerlich, right, swore Rosabel “Rosie” Sekayumptewa in Dec. 12 at the college’s Holbrook, Painted Desert Campus. (Photo/NPC)

Navajo County School Superintendent Jalyn Gerlich, right, swore Rosabel “Rosie” Sekayumptewa in Dec. 12 at the college’s Holbrook, Painted Desert Campus. (Photo/NPC)

HOLBROOK, Ariz. — Northland Pioneer College’s District Governing Board has a new member. Rosabel “Rosie” Sekayumptewa will now represent the Navajo County Community College Board for District 2 of the college’s coverage area, which encompasses portions of the Navajo and Hopi reservations north of the Interstate 40 corridor including Dilkon, Indian Wells, Greasewood and Keams Canyon.

Navajo County School Superintendent Jalyn Gerlich conducted the swearing in cermony for Sekayumptewa Dec. 12 at the college’s Holbrook, Painted Desert Campus. Sekayumptewa will take the seat of former board member Elias Jouen. Her term will end Dec. 31 at which time, if elected, Sekayumptewa will serve the remainder of the position’s six-year term.

Having served NPC in various roles, Sekayumptewa has a rich history with the college. She was an academic advisor at both NPC’s Hopi and Winslow locations, NPC’s Hopi center manager, and the assistant center manager at NPC’s Holbrook campus.

Growing up on the reservation, Sekayumptewa knows the challenges native American students face; particularly when it comes to obtaining an education.

“My parents didn’t have a formal education,” she said. “They never went to school and did not speak English. But I believe, and would proudly say, that my father held a ‘cultural’ Doctoral-level education in the philosophy and belief system of the Diné people.”

“I spoke only Navajo until I was 7 years old and I will always be an English language learner,“ she said about language barriers. “Many of the parents growing up and living on the reservation today do not have college degrees, and thus no professional careers...They can’t talk to their children about obtaining a degree or a professional career; be it as a physician, specialized nurse, engineer, lawyer, etc. Because they don’t have the experience to do so.”

Sekayumptewa said she knows that not everyone is destined for or wants to go to college, but that higher education also offers courses that can prepare someone for a career by earning a technical/career readiness certificate.

“Parents need to talk to their children about these opportunities,” she said.

When Sekayumptewa graduated from Holbrook High School in 1967 attending NPC was not yet an option. NPC did not lay roots in the area until several years later. With no local resources for continued education, she moved to San Franciso by way of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’s (BIA) relocation program. She attended San Francisco’s Munson Business College, finished their accounting program, and found her first job with Bank of America.

Despite her parent’s lack of formal education, she explained, “One of the profound teachings instilled in me by my parents is the valued Navajo proverbial teaching of ‘it is up to you to reach your good life potential.’ No one can do that for you. You have to work hard and not be lazy. ..you must give it all you’ve got, all on your own.”

Sekayumptewa did just that. After resettling in Arizona she enrolled in Phoenix College, obtained an associate’s degree, and went on to obtain her Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences from Arizona State University. She has held various positions in healthcare administration over the years. She served with the Arizona Department of Health Services, and with the Navajo County Department of Health Services as a liaison working in tribal communities to promote healthy living. This included working with Arizona’s health department to educate others about the dangers of (commercial) tobacco use. She also served as a health educator with the Navajo Division of Health and as a wellness teacher at the Greasewood Springs Community School.

Sekayumptewa is also no newcomer to policymaking and diplomacy. “I’ve left some tracks on Capitol Hill in D.C as an advocate and lobbyist for Dilkon Medical Center,” she said.

She will now embark on yet another chapter in her professional career as a member of NPC’s District Governing Board.

“I guess I just don’t know how to be a retiree,” she said, “I’m 75 going on 29, and still growing up.”

For Sekayumptewa, the prospect of making a real difference in students’ lives is exciting.

“NPC is a great resource and has a strong understanding of economic needs, and how to build an academic foundation for the young people in our area,” she said. “I can assist with that. I love making professional connections. I love to network and I love to listen. I want to be open to new ideas, and always be talking to people from across the board to make our communities better.”

Information provided by Northland Pioneer College.

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