DZILTH-NA-O-DITH-HLE — Last week, Sunshine Nizhoni Tso was one of 65 Native American students who spoke about agriculture and the challenges facing tribal lands.

Tso is an eighth-grader at Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle Community Grant School, located 25 miles south of Bloomfield. She was selected to represent the Navajo Nation at the 27th annual Intertribal Agriculture Membership Meeting Dec. 9 to 12 in Las Vegas, Nev.

She was nominated and then selected because of her membership and service with the Hanaa'dli 4-H Club, based in Huerfano Chapter, where she participates in rodeo, photography, scrapbooking and cooking.

"We talked about how our generation is going to be the next ranchers and how to keep that tradition," Tso said about the conference.

The fun part, she said, was interacting with students who represented tribes from across the country and listening to them talk about agricultural issues, including drought conditions affecting Indian Country.

The 13-year-old was accompanied to the conference by her parents, Perry and Veronica Tso, who own cattle, horses and sheep in Huerfano Chapter.

"They're my best friends," Sunshine Tso said about the family livestock.

In addition to 4-H Club, the teenager plays on the school's basketball, volleyball and softball teams.

"My passion is softball," she said. "It's in my blood."

She started playing softball eight years ago, following in her mother's and father's footsteps.

Her eyes brightened Friday as she talked about softball, adding that she works with former Fort Lewis College pitching coach Dick Gonzales.

Perry Tso said his daughter's pitching skills continue to improve. She currently pitches at 58 miles per hour and helped the school team become softball junior high league champions, competing against schools in Shiprock, Toadlena, Tohatchi and Wingate.

Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle Community Grant School Executive Director and Principal Mike Walker said Sunshine Tso is an "excellent student" and "good peer mentor."

"She is great to have here," Walker said.

With high school around the corner, Sunshine Tso is thinking about her academic future with a focus on studying animal science and veterinary at Arizona State University in Tempe.

She is Tódích' íi' nii (Bitter Water), born for Hashk'aahadzohí (Yucca Fruit-Strung-Out-In-A-Line). Her maternal grandfather is Tó'áheedlíinii (Water Flow Together) and her parental grandfather is Bit'ahnii (Under His Cover People).

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.