'We get to celebrate in a different way': Sanostee honors grads, student promotions

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

SANOSTEE — Headlights flashed on Navajo Route 34 as a parade to celebrate high school and college graduates and student promotions from the community moved toward the Tsé Alnaozt'i'í Chapter house.

Twenty-eight students participated in the event on July 17, which was done by no contact, meaning participants remained in their vehicles throughout the parade and when driving through the Tsé Alnaozt'i'í Chapter house area to receive gift certificates and other items.

Gerald Henderson, chapter vice president and team leader of the chapter's authorized local emergency response team, explained that chapter officials and the ALERT members arranged the event because commencements and events by schools to promote students from head start and from the eighth grade were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Beroncia Barber, an ALERT member, used the list of 38 student names to sort gift bags and certificates to distribute when the vehicles enter the chapter house area.

A pair of college graduates from Sanostee drive by the Tsé Alnaozt'i'í Chapter area after participating in a parade on July 17 to recognize their graduations. Chapter officials and members of the chapter's emergency response team organized to celebrate students from the community.

"It's just to give something out to the students," she said adding the chapter received a financial donation from the Tacitus Ventures Corp. to purchase the items and to provide meals prepared by IronMocCatering.

The chapter also distributed produce donated by former Democratic congressional candidate Laura Montoya to the students' families, and other assorted items were given to students from community members.

At the starting location for the parade, Newcomb High School graduate Kiona Lewis Chase held onto her green graduation cap as the wind began to blow.

Tiona Wadsworth, left, and Talicia Yazzie wait for the parade on July 17 to celebrate graduates and the promotion of students from Sanostee. Wadsworth was promoted from eighth grade at Newcomb Middle School and Yazzie graduated from Richfield High School in Richfield, Utah.

Chase sat in the bed of a pickup truck and commented about the impact of the coronavirus on her last year of high school.

"It's pretty sad that I didn't get to walk across the stage along with my friends, having my family watching me," Chase said.

Newcomb is one of four high schools under the Central Consolidated School District. The district recognized its graduating classes by airing recorded messages on 107.9 FM Pirate Radio and held a virtual celebration for Newcomb graduates on May 22.

Despite Chase's disappointment, she was grateful Tsé Alnaozt'i'í Chapter honored her accomplishment.

Zhoniba Belone graduated from Newcomb as well and sat next to her cousin, Cheyanne Rockwell, who graduated from Career Prep High School, in the back of an SUV.

"That's what I was mainly looking forward to," Belone said about commencement.

"But it's cool that we get to celebrate in a different way," she added about the parade and drive-thru celebration.

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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Tsé Alnaozt'i'í Chapter President Frank Smith announces the names of students from the community who graduated high school or college or promoted from Head Start and eighth grade during a parade and drive-thru event on July 17 in Sanostee.
Northwest High School graduate Devin Brown participates in a no contact parade on July 17 in Sanostee. The parade was organized by Tsé Alnaozt'i'í Chapter officials and the chapter's emergency response team to recognize students from the community who graduated or were promoted to kindergarten and high school.