'Heart of the campus': Navajo Prep leaders, students and staff break ground on new hogan
School using capital outlaying funding to replace aging structure dating to 2001
FARMINGTON — A series of architectural drawings set up on Oct. 28 gave students, staff members and guests a first look at the new female hogan that will be constructed at Navajo Preparatory School.
A female hogan, a traditional dwelling that is circular with a dome-shaped roof and built from logs and mud, has been on the campus since 2001.
For the last two years. the school has been working to replace the hogan due to its deteriorating condition. The older hogan was disassembled last year and a new one will be constructed at the open space where the former structure existed.
Navajo Prep is using capital outlay money received in 2020 and 2021 from the state Legislature to complete the work.
Shawna Becenti, the head of school, said the hogan is the "heart" of the school.
"It is reflective and a symbol of growth, development, adolescence and adulthood," she said.
Throughout the decades, the hogan has been a classroom, a gathering place for students, a space for Navajo shoe games and traditional storytelling, and the starting point for commencement processions.
"It's used as that learning place, that feeling of home for our campus," Becenti said.
The idea of placing a hogan on campus was first conceived in 1995 then included in the school's master plan in 1997.
Helping break ground on Oct. 28 were members of the board of trustees, students, staff and invited guests.
"Within every home, there's always a foundation, and the foundation of who we are at Navajo Prep is this location here," board member Sherrick Roanhorse said.
Kevin Belin is a Navajo language teacher and the project manager for the construction.
Belin explained that the school's leadership collected input on a design from the community through surveys before settling on a larger structure that has a mix of traditional and modern design.
"It's for you students here, and I know we really miss our hogan, we miss our home. We look over here, and it's empty. It may seem that way, but the spirit is still here. We keep it alive," Belin said.
Navajo Prep senior Sahale James echoed the sentiment that the hogan is the school's core.
"The hogan is what brings all of Navajo Prep together. Again, it symbolizes the heart of the campus," James said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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