AZTEC — As the school year came to an end last week, Aztec High School students living in the Kinteel Residence Campus turned their attention from studying to cleaning out their lockers.

Graduating seniors had already left, leaving the 9th to 11th-graders to pack up their belongings and clean their living areas before heading home.

Students are transported home by bus or van every weekend, arriving Sunday afternoon and returning home Friday afternoon.

Students live in male and female dormitories separated by offices and rooms for weight lifting, laundry and more. Both sides lead into a common living area with couches, computers and televisions. Across the parking lot is the campus cafeteria and gymnasium.
Charity Begay cleans and packs before heading home for the summer at Aztec’s Kinteel Residence Campus on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
Charity Begay cleans and packs before heading home for the summer at Aztec's Kinteel Residence Campus on Tuesday, May 21, 2013. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)


Sitting in a corner of the female living quarters, junior Charity Begay was scrubbing her storage locker and her clothes were strewn on the floor. Her parents were making the two-and-a-half hour drive from Dennehotso, Ariz., to pick her up Wednesday.

“I have a lot of clothes, I'm trying to organize it so I can leave (Wednesday),” Begay said.

Campus Executive Director Scott da Silva said the idea of a dormitory sounded antiquated when he took the position but quickly learned the vital role the campus still plays.

“When you get here, it's something that is actually very normal,” da Silva said. “A lot of our staff members went to dormitories when growing up and if the kid wants the best education, the families want them to have it too. Aztec High School is appealing for that.”

Begay spent her freshman year at a private school in Richville, Utah, and wanted to be closer to home while living a dorm-style life. She has learned a number of lessons from living independently.

“You have to manage your time wisely. It's up to you to do your chores, to wash your clothes, it makes you more independent,” Begay said.

Brandon Benally was hanging out in the boys living quarters, listening to hip-hop music while other students finished vacuuming around their bunk beds. Benally is a third-generation Kinteel student. His grandfather and father lived in the dormitory while attending Aztec High.

“It's all about academics and learning to be on your own,” Benally said. “I feel that it has benefitted me.”

Living in the dormitory has changed how he has interacts with people.

“We are all on our own back here and we have to learn to get along with one another,” Benally said.

The students' days begin at 6 a.m. when they do chores that include making their beds, vacuuming and wiping down tables before breakfast is served between 7:30 and 8 8 a.m.

Two bus runs take a majority of the students to Aztec High after breakfast while early morning routes transport those taking “zero-hour” classes and practicing for sports.

After returning to the campus, the students have a little free time before dinner is served at 4:30 p.m. Study hour commences at 6 p.m. and last to 8 p.m. Bedtime is at 10 p.m.

“We have dances, we have barbecues, we have field trips,” da Silva said. “We have a lot of different kinds of rewards. We try and keep them busy.  We want to do things they wouldn't typically get at home.”

Begay said she feels no different than any other teenager despite living in dorms all of her high school years.
Students surf the Internet in the student lounge at Aztec’s Kinteel Residence Campus on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
Students surf the Internet in the student lounge at Aztec's Kinteel Residence Campus on Tuesday, May 21, 2013. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)


“I think it's good in a way, you don't go off campus and get into trouble,” Begay said. “I had to make friends fast because I came here sophomore year and I'm not from here. I talked to a (small) amount of people because I was shy and now living in the dorm, I got outspoken and met more people, just meeting more people got me out of my shyness.”

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.