'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

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Student leaders at Navajo Preparatory School attend the groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 28 to mark the start of construction on a new female hogan on the campus in Farmington.

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.

Shawna Becenti, head of school at Navajo Preparatory School, calls the female hogan the school's "heart" during the groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 28 in Farmington.

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.

Breaking ground on a new female hogan at Navajo Preparatory School in Farmington on Oct. 28 were members of the board of trustees, students, staff and invited guests.

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, Navajo language teacher at Navajo Preparatory School, talks about the new female hogan at the school's the groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 28 in Farmington.

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.

Navajo Preparatory School teacher Kevin Belin, left, explains an architectural drawing of the new female hogan to Charley Long Sr., the school's board secretary-treasurer, after the groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 28 in Farmington.

"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.

From left, Navajo Preparatory School students Ajahrain Yellowhair, Melane Montoya and Yilnazbah Wauneka-Yellowhorse look at an architectural drawing of the new female hogan after the groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 28 in Farmington.

"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 nsmith@daily-times.com.

Support local journalism with a digital subscription to The Daily Times.