Diné College hosts student banquet for AIHEC students

Diné College hosts student banquet for AIHEC students

6 April 2023

TSAILE, AZ — The 2023 American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) was recently held in Albuquerque, NM and in celebration of our Diné College students’ achievements, a banquet was held in their honor. The event was hosted by Diné College’s Office of the President, Office of the Provost and the 2023 AIHEC Chairpersons who brought together, students, family members, faculty, staff, and administrators in celebration.

The banquet was held on April 5th at the Ned Hatathli Center 4th floor Museum and was attended by over 75 people. The banquet began with a welcome address by the AIHEC Chairperson, Patrick Blackwater, who praised the students for their hard work and dedication to the conference and their education. The program also included a speech and award recognition from the College President and Provost.

Students were able to reflect on their experiences at the conference and shared highlights of their AIHEC journey. Dawn Smith from Low Mountain, Arizona and a Bachelor Fine Arts Major, took 1st place in Art Exhibit for Painting, shared her creative process of her painting titled, Slaying the Monster, and how research inspired the concept of the Twin Warrior slaying the Monster with their bow and arrow. Alongside her, Dayhenoa Yazzie who is a first-year student also shared her experience competing in the poetry slam where she won 1st place contending against 40 fellow students from neighboring Tribal Colleges and Universities.  Yazzie reflected on her accomplishment, advancing into four rounds and won with her poetry titled, I am From. “My experience at AIHEC was fun… I initially thought about participating in the poetry slam as a judge, but at the last minute I decided to compete,” stated Yazzie. “I didn’t expect to make it through the first round, so hearing my name called was a great feeling. I just want to thank all those who stayed until midnight and supported me during competition”.

Student competitor Mycal Blackgoat spoke about his last and final journey competing in the 2023 AIHEC as this would be his final year before graduating from Diné College. Barbara Bernal, an international student, spoke about how she thought joining the Knowledge Bowl competition wasn’t going to benefit the team but soon discovered just how smart she is and self-identified her value as a competing student. Jalen Smallcanyon left to AIHEC as a student competitor and returned to Diné College as a new student leader, taking on the role as the new Student Body President in the Associated Students of Diné College (ASDC). Frank Apachito shared his story of personal struggles, growing up dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts but found perseverance through the focus of one day earning his degree. Chanley Dee spoke about attending AIHEC for the first time and the enormous support that was given to students to keep up with their school work, mid-terms, long study hours and preparation for competing in Archery and Science Poster Presentation. AIHEC Coach and Faculty, Dr. Shazia Tabassum Hakim, shared about the research and study the students within the Scientific Orals and Poster Presentation conducted, presenting hypotheses and research to judges from other Tribal Colleges and Universities.

During the president’s address Dr. Charles M. Roessel stated, “One thing that I think is a really good lesson here is that you all have shared your decision of joining AIHEC at a last-minute decision. ‘At the last minute I showed up… at the last minute I tried.’ I think that’s a lesson in life to take away from this experience as students. The ‘last-minute” underlines what can change our lives forever, so remember that because you decided at the last minute to make a choice, that decision created an opportunity for you to share and tell us more about your experience attending AIHEC and competing against 36 tribal colleges and universities under the consortium. A lot of these things that happen to us in life may seem small at the beginning, but they get larger as they get further on. Do not forget that! I am very proud of you and I’m glad to say we’re all a part of the Warrior family. I appreciate everything you do, I love you all.”

Throughout the event, attendees enjoyed a delicious meal, and heard from all coaches of different categories that competed, exchanged stories of preparation, challenges, and forming friendship. The highlight of the event was the recognition of the students and support staff who contributed to making AIHEC possible for students to attend this year. Students and staff were presented with certificates of achievement, certificates of appreciation for outstanding performance, and trophies of outstanding achievement to all competitors.

“We are proud of our students’ accomplishments and are honored to have hosted this banquet to celebrate their hard work and the dedication of our staff who worked tirelessly to get our students this far,” said Velveena Davis, Chairperson, bringing the 2023 AIHEC to a close. “We hope that this event has not only recognized our students’ journey but also inspired everyone to continue supporting higher education and strive for excellence in all that we do.”

The success of this event has demonstrated the commitment of the Diné College community to support and celebrate the academic achievements of student success, as well as the support from staff and faculty who made the 2023 AIHEC possible. The 2024 AIHEC will be taking place next year in Minneapolis, MN.

Diné College is a four-year tribal college located on the Navajo reservation with five campuses and two microsites across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah and primarily serves Navajo students. The school offers 1 master’s degree, 11+ bachelor’s degrees, 16 associate degrees, and 6 certificate programs. The school is a member of the Higher Learning Commission. The college, established in 1968, is the first tribal college and was formerly named Navajo Community College.


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