Navajo Prep receives education grants for IB diploma, Diné culture programs

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Navajo Preparatory School is the recipient of approximately $1.2 million in federal grants to advance a couple of programs at the school.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Indian Education awarded $949,650 to the school to expand its International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme and $294,840 for further development of the Diné Bizaad Center.

Navajo Prep will use the amount to bring the IB Middle Years Programme curriculum to sophomores and freshmen, which would prepare them to undertake the IB Diploma Programme.

The IB Programme provides a college-preparatory education and a core curriculum that encompasses critical thinking, developing research and writing skills, and awareness of global issues.

Navajo Preparatory School personnel Rainy Crisp, left, and Keith Neil show a banner that recognizes a graduate of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme on Aug. 19, 2019 at the school in Farmington.

Navajo Prep became an authorized IB World School in 2014 and the program was open to juniors and seniors to pursue the diploma or course certificates.

Seven students from the 2020 graduating class earned the IB diploma, according to an Aug. 18 press release from Navajo Prep.

Darah Tabrum, dean of student and community engagement, said advancing the IB program would increase student interest and further inquiry-based learning.

"That would help us to align our courses from ninth to 12th grade," Tabrum said.

For the Diné Bizaad Center, the grant will go toward hiring a coordinator and furthering its oral storytelling program.

Shawna Becenti, head of school at Navajo Preparatory School, gives the welcome address during the ceremony to recognize five International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme graduates on Aug. 19, 2019 at the school in Farmington.

While the task of establishing a physical location for the center remains under development, its objective has been implemented through classroom instruction and student-led projects that center on aspects of Navajo culture and language with the goal of sharing that information with the community.

Shawna Becenti, the head of school, said students are learning how to use technology, from video cameras to producing podcasts, to record stories from Navajo communities.

"We were so excited because we were the one Navajo language project and I know even with this pandemic, it's still has not stopped our students from producing and doing the course work," Becenti said of the funding.

She added that creation of the center is part of the school's strategic plan.

"It's an outcome of the goal established by the community to focus on protecting our Navajo way of life. Through that, it's the ability to be the keepers and producers of our own history and stories," Becenti said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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