Nov 302011

By Naomi Hatch–

“Star’s becoming a leader for the program,” said Superintendent Hollis Merrell.

Starlena Begay attended the National Johnson-O’Malley (JOM) Association Conference in Tulsa, Okla., in October and was elected to the national Board of Directors representing Region 1, which is Colorado and Arizona.

The national association knows the struggles to meet the special and unique needs of Indian students and the board represents all Indian Nations, being the voice on Capitol Hill for all JOM programs.

“JOM was enacted in 1934 to all the Department of the Interior to provide assistance to Indians in the areas of education, medical attention, agricultural assistance, social welfare and relief of distress because of findings that Indians needed support to transition from Indian-only settings to general population settings such as the environments found in public schools and in urban areas. Seventy-six years later, JOM continues to provide critical support to Indian kids, most of which live in impoverished areas,” notes the JOM.

Begay gave an overview of her position to the Board at the Thursday, Nov. 17, Snowflake Unified School District Board meeting.

“I’m the voice for our children and I also represent our community, our district and our families as well as our tribe,” said Begay, who is a member of the Navajo tribe. “I will find the different ways to help our students to success.”

Begay noted that they are looking at preschool students that will come into the district and help them succeed in passing AIMS when they’re in high school.

“I will be speaking at a national level and bringing it back and helping the students succeed,” she said.

An assignment on the Board of Directors means that she will have three speaking engagements during the year. She said that based on that the tribe is willing to help pay expenses as well as the chapter from the reservation.

“Congratulations, Star,” said Merrell. “We are very appreciative for her in the community.”

Merrell explained that the district is discussing spending some of the money received through a JOM grant to help younger students and will relocate some of the resources currently used at the junior high to the preschool level stating, “So they’re coming into school ready rather than trying to catch them up.”