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Youth and Education News

Navajo Prep students pledge to protect their culture, traditions
Condensed by Native Village

New Mexico: The fourth Leadership San Juan class recently met at Navajo Preparatory High School for sessions on the theme, "Multicultural Day. Twenty-nine students attended.

During the afternoon, four Navajo Prep seniors -- Jasmine Jishie, Jefferson Joe Jr., Shane Benally and Delta Higdon -- discussed how culture has influenced their lives.

Moderator Elaine Benally introduced the students and stressed the importance of listening to the wisdom young people have to offer. She explained that Navajo Prep graduates attend colleges across  the nation and are succeeding both on and off the Reservation.

"Native American people are now in fear of losing their language, cultural traditions and their youth," Benally said. "These young people are here to reassure us that this won't happen."

The students discussed their plans to attend college and earn degrees in areas such as law, education, business and psychology. Afterwards, they intend to return to the Reservation to serve their people and help future generations.

"I want to become a lawyer and open up a firm on the Reservation, so my people won't have to go all the way to the city (for legal help)."    Jefferson Joe Jr.

"The Dine people have a lot of talent in sports such as running and basketball, and I plan to come back and help them out with that."   Shane Benally, future athletic trainer and coach.

When asked what advice they would give for leaders, both on and off the Reservation:

"They need to be able to reach out to the youth, We here at Navajo Prep try to go out and help younger kids, and teach them to go after their dreams. That's what all leaders need to do."     Delta Higdon

Students talked about the importance of preserving Navajo culture. They praised Navajo Prep for integrating Navajo culture and traditions in the curriculum.

"In our culture, we have stories, we have songs. It's the little things that count. We're so connected with nature, harmony and peace, so culture has had such a big impact on me."   Jasmine Jishie

Joe said that preserving Navajo culture will fall largely on the backs of his generation and generations to come.

"Coming here to Navajo Prep and learning about my culture has offered me clarity. I finally know what I want to do. I want to stop our culture from fading away, and I want to protect my people any way I can."    Jefferson Joe Jr

The Leadership students will attend three more day-long sessions and complete three community-improvement projects before graduating from the program in May.

The Leadership San Juan program is geared toward educating current and future community leaders about pertinent issues and systems within the county.

Applications for next year's Leadership San Juan class are being accepted.

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