The quote said it all.
"Always remember who you are. You are Diné," Navajo Nation Vice President Ben Shelly said. "Identify yourself as Navajo, a unique tribe. You won't lose your way. Go into this world, fill your mind with information. There's nothing in the world you can't do."
Many proud Navajo parents, grandparents and siblings shared the same sentiments last week at Navajo Preparatory School when they gathered to honor 72 recipients of the 2007 Chief Manuelito Scholarship.
Each of the 72 Navajo high school graduates will receive about $7,000-per-year in funds to continue their education.
Named after the man who, more than a century ago, urged the Navajo people to seek an education, the scholarship is available to Navajo students who maintain a 3.0 GPA and score a 21 or higher on the ACT. To be eligible, students also must complete a unit of Navajo language and half a unit of Navajo government.
"The Chief Manuelito scholars are the best and the brightest in the Navajo Nation," said Kay Nave-Mark, senior financial aid counselor for the Shiprock Agency of the Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance. "It's the highest award going to Navajo students."
Established in 1980, the scholarship is funded through a federal contract. Every eligible student who applies for the scholarship and meets the deadline is awarded, Nave-Mark said.
"Our main goal for promoting education is that these students go on, become successful, then in some way give back to the Nation to make it stronger," she said. "The program has been successful for more than 20 years, and we're just getting to that point. The people who benefited in the beginning are becoming successful and established and giving back."
Jennifer Denetdale, the first Navajo to receive a doctorate in history, spoke to the students.
"Our leaders invested in our future. It is our responsibility to give back," Denetdale said.
Education is the primary tool available to assure that the Navajo culture, language and history is passed on and that the future of the Navajo Nation is secure.
We congratulate the students and their families and echo the statements of Ervin Keeswood, chairman of the Government Services committee, who spoke to the young scholars.
"Young leaders, young adults, you are going to have to make bold and confident decisions. That's what a leader does. You must never waver. You must always maintain that decision that you make. By doing so, you empower people to find new direction and great ideas for our people."
We, along with the Navajo Nation, expect great things of you all. Make the most of your opportunities, and find a way to make a lasting, positive difference in whatever field you choose.