Program targeted for health sciences students

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FARMINGTON — A new agreement between the Navajo Nation and Fort Lewis College will help Navajo students who are pursuing degrees in health sciences at the four-year college located in Durango, Colorado.

Fort Lewis waives tuition for Native American students, and the new scholarship is designed to help students with living expenses, the cost of textbooks and other student fees, according to a press release from the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President.

Tribal President Russell Begaye and Fort Lewis College President Tom Stritikus signed the memorandum of agreement in Durango on Thursday.

The scholarship will provide $2,500 to each student for each term. In return, the student must agree to serve the tribe or its entities for a minimum of two years after earning an undergraduate degree in health or exercise science.

The agreement also establishes a partnership between Fort Lewis and the Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance, which will distribute and monitor the scholarship funding.

Rose Graham, department manager for the scholarship and financial assistance office, said on Friday the scholarship will assist 50 students each term, and it will be available in the spring.

She said the agreement had been under development since October, and the office worked with Melissa Knight-Maloney, chair and professor of exercise science at Fort Lewis, on its details, such as the amount of funding to be awarded.

"We currently have about 30 students enrolled in the program, and we expect the numbers to increase in the second term," Graham said.

She added the administration of Navajo President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez has promoted health and physical fitness, and Fort Lewis offers a good program in that area for students.

In a video of the signing posted on Begaye's Facebook page on Thursday, the president called on Navajo students interested in the program to take advantage of the scholarship.

"We value collaboration with the nation and your leadership in making this happen, and I know many students for generations to come will benefit, so thank you," Stritikus said in a video.

The release from Begaye's office states the agreement also calls on Fort Lewis to identify and recruit prospective students, and to provide academic advisement for scholarship recipients.

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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