'You've been given an honor': Chief Manuelito Scholarship recipients recognized

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and first lady Phefelia Nez address recipients of the Chief Manuelito Scholarship in a virtual event on March 3.

FARMINGTON — When David R. Wilson addressed the Chief Manuelito Scholarship recipients in a keynote address, he remarked on the privilege in receiving the prestigious award.

"You've been given an honor to represent the Navajo people in academia," Wilson said to the 114 recipients who received the scholarship in 2020 and were recognized in a virtual ceremony on March 3.

Wilson told the group to develop satisfaction from pursuing careers that make them happy, a lesson he learned after receiving the merit-based scholarship in the 1990s.

David R. Wilson, director of the Tribal Health Research Office at the National Institutes of Health, gives the keynote address during the 2020 Chief Manuelito Scholarship awards ceremony on March 3.

He arrived at Arizona State University with an interest in mechanical engineering but found his calling in research and science.

He holds a doctorate in molecular and cellular biology from ASU and became the first director of the Tribal Health Research Office at the National Institutes of Health in 2017.

"Remember, again, that you have the honor, but you also have the responsibility of representing our culture, our people and your families as you progress through academia. I know that you all will make us proud," he said.

Each year the Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance honors recipients in an awards ceremony, but the event in 2020 was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jennifer Denetdale, professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico, talks on MArch 3 about the legacy of Chief Manuelito during the awards ceremony for the scholarship named in honor of the Navajo leader.

There were 26 students from high schools in San Juan County who received the scholarship, established by the tribal government in 1980 and in honor of the Navajo leader, Manuelito.

Carolyn Calvin, senior public information officer with the office, explained that the pandemic "significantly impacted" the office's timeline for the scholarship, including postponing its deadline from June to November to accommodate students and schools operating remotely.

The unexpected transition from in-person to remote learning was mentioned in remarks by Department of Diné Education Interim Superintendent Patricia Gonnie, who praised recipients for achieving the award.

"You have persevered during these changed times of education. You invested in online learning and finished your final semester of high school career solidly," Gonnie said.

Chief Manuelito recipients from San Juan County schools

Bloomfield High School

Aiyana Austin

Farmington High School

Amber Begay

Coule Dale

Madyson Deale

Aaliyah M. Juanico

Paige Nakai

Kirtland Central High School

Tayler Allison John

Navajo Preparatory School

Sky A. Harper

Miauaxochitl K. Haskie

Jason R. Joe

Kamia S. Leano

Drueh Emanuel Lii'bilNaghahi

Filisi U. Magua

Kaylin McLiverty

Alyssa Alexandria Nez

Sheyenne Bahozhni Taylor

Shelby Walter

Mandi Wheeler

Newcomb High School

Elijah Adam Begay

Nathan H. Benally

Addy Lynn Yazzie

Piedra Vista High School

Triston Charles

Amaya Banizhoni Garnenez

Mira Lynae Salt

San Juan College High School

Niesha Z. Benallie

Shiprock High School

Cameron Charleston

Source: Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance

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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