Dec 252013

Terry Yazzie, a 1994 Northland Pioneer College graduate, was honored last week as the Fall 2013 NPC Outstanding Alumnus.
Yazzie is giving back to his hometown of Jeddito and to the Diné through a new Adult Basic Education (ABE) program at the Window Rock campus of Diné College.
“I do not think of myself as a role model, because I am one of the people,” Yazzie said when describing how he demonstrates the need for a GED or higher education to his fellow Diné. “I try to instill the importance of an education, using my background as an example to influence them to believe in themselves.”
Born to the Tlizilani and for the Kiyaa aani (Towering House) clans, Yazzie was born at Keams Canyon and raised in Jeddito. He has fond memories of his days in the Keams Canyon Boarding and Jeddito Public Schools. Even in high school in Ganado, he “didn’t fit in, and did not put forth my best effort,” not realizing the value of an education. “Maybe it was due to being in a controlled environment with many rules to follow. When I got to NPC, it was the academic freedom that unleashed my potential and desire for learning,” he said.
He credits NPC instructors Virginia Arthur and Angie James with sparking his interest in Adult Basic Education.
“Virginia and Angie influenced me to be an ABE instructor, helping other students succeed just like how the NPC staff guided me through the early years of my education. I was truly blessed to meet and learn from an amazing group of people. They valued education and it made me want to learn more,” he noted.
Yazzie recalled his first meeting with NPC staff member Peggy Belknap: “She advised me through the entirety of my degree program at NPC.”
His first instructor was Donna Ashcraft. “I remember how welcoming her classroom environment was. She left an impression of being a person that cared about her students and she made me believe in myself,” he said. “I am thankful I had many wonderful teachers, such as Dr. Marvin Vasher, Jill Diemer, John Deaton, Dr. Arvin Palmer, Dr. Gene Luke and many more who taught me to be a better person through education.”
Louella Nahsonhoya, a former NPC center manager and board member, guided him to become an academic adviser.
While still an NPC student, and later while working on his Bachelor of Science degree in history from Northern Arizona University, which he received in 1996, Yazzie served as an academic tutor and administrative assistant at NPC. In 2000, he became an NPC associate faculty member, teaching pre-college and GED courses in reading, writing and mathematics, and providing placement testing and advising for students.
Today, he is applying the models used by NPC’s ABE program and Diné College-Shiprock in creating the program at Diné College-Window Rock. The Shiprock program, under Yazzie’s supervisor Thomas Bennett, was recognized on Oct. 26 as the outstanding adult education program in New Mexico. “It was a great honor to witness and be a part of the recognition,” noted Yazzie. “I am honored to work with an amazing group of colleagues–Jacqueline, Jesse, Judith and Chris.”
“The biggest challenge I see is the students not believing in themselves. My fellow Diné are very bright people and the students I work with all need second chances,” he said. “They have found a reason to make the effort and to make their dreams come true. I have seen the changes made and the dreams are being fulfilled.”
Yazzie works as their instructor, mentor and coach. “It takes hard work, commitment and determination on the part of the students. For me, it is exhausting, but incredibly rewarding when they earn their diplomas. It is my job to ensure that they put forth their best efforts and learn as much as possible,” he explained.
Before becoming Adult Education coordinator and instructor at the Window Rock campus, Yazzie served as an academic adviser/coordinator at Diné’s Ganado campus.
“Education made me a better person. I believe I learned to be objective and to think before I make a decision,” he continued.
“My late mother’s vision for me reached fruition when I earned my Master of Arts degree in American Indian Studies from Prescott College in 2012. Northland Pioneer College laid a solid foundation for me that I cherish,” Yazzie said.
He also credits his older sister Lorraine, who “ventured outside of our comfort zone to attend college in Colorado. The women of my family have been there to push me and I am grateful for their support.”
His service to his fellow Diné is not limited to education. Earlier this year he was elected president of the Jeddito Chapter, a Navajo Nation island surrounded by the Hopi Reservation. He had previously served as a planning aide for the chapter, gathering demographic data that resulted in a $300,000-plus grant to extend power lines to 27 homes and implemented an advanced GPS system to support emergency medical access to rural homes.
Yazzie enjoys photography, reading and “old music from the 1960s, 70s and 80s in many genre,” finding comfort in the music. “I love cars, particularly sports cars, and college basketball and football,” he said. But his greatest passions are discovering “historical documents concerning trading posts in Navajo history, and collecting old Pepsi and Coke cans.”
In nominating Yazzie for the Outstanding Alumnus Award, Ann Hilliard wrote, “Mr. Yazzie is a career educator who demonstrates a commitment to lifelong learning and intellectual growth.”
The Outstanding Alumnus program honors former NPC students who are dedicated to giving back to their communities and show dedication to lifelong learning. To nominate an individual, go online to

Photo courtesy of Northland Pioneer College Northland Pioneer College’s Outstanding Alumnus for Fall 2013 Terry Yazzie (center) receives congratulations from Donna Ashcraft (left), his first teacher at NPC, and Peggy Belknap (right), who advised him through his degree program at NPC.

Photo courtesy of Northland Pioneer College
Northland Pioneer College’s Outstanding Alumnus for Fall 2013 Terry Yazzie (center) receives congratulations from Donna Ashcraft (left), his first teacher at NPC, and Peggy Belknap (right), who advised him through his degree program at NPC.