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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


September 21, 2002 - Issue 70


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Stevens Village Woman Heads to Dartmouth

by Diana Campbell Staff Writer Fairbanks DailyNews-Miner
Dartmouth College GreenAn anxious Joy Shockley is leaving for Dartmouth College in New Hampshire on Monday. Questions race through the 18- year-old Stevens Village woman's head.

"How will I pay for it all?"

"Will I be able to keep up in classes?"

"It's kind of a big step away from village life," Shockley said by phone from Stevens Village.

But the young woman has taken similar steps before.

Four years ago, her high school freshman year, she attended the Galena Project Education Charter School, but was expelled for drinking, smoking and drug use.

"It was a slap in the face," she said. "I loved school."

Once she returned to Stevens Village, she straightened up and finished her freshman year by correspondence.

"She came back from Galena and totally made a 180," said her mother Dorothy Shockley, who is the program director of Council of the Athabascan Tribal Government's Healthy Family Program in Stevens Village.

"We started talking," her mother said. "She started to become really honest, not just with herself but with me."

While she improved emotionally, Shockley said she was bored and unchallenged her sophomore year at Stevens Village's small school where she was the lone 10th-grader.

She started looking for alternatives. She found a Web site for a boarding school association and sent her name in as an interested applicant.

Soon scores of school informational packets from started arriving in the small village of about 87 people 17 miles north of the Yukon River Bridge on the Dalton Highway.

Her mother knew something was up as she checked the mail each day. Dorothy said she knew her child was unhappy with her education but her plan was to move with her daughter to a community with a better and bigger school.

"I didn't encourage her, but I didn't discourage her," she said. "I didn't want her to move far away."

Joy Shockley was overwhelmed with all the choices the mail brought and many schools were too highbrow for her liking. One caught her eye. It was for Verde Valley School in Sedona, Ariz. The private boarding school advertises a desert campus with horses and a multicultural learning experience with an emphasis on Native American culture. In its 50-year history, the student body has regularly consisted of international students as well as Native American and U.S. students. Many graduates go on to top universities in the nation and abroad. The school has about 100 students in a dormitory setting.

Yet it appeared to have a home quality to Shockley.

"I think I needed it to be Stevens Village in a way," she said. "I needed that comfort level for the first step out."

The tuition is $28,500 a year, but Shockley received a scholarship for most of it, said Judge Mason, Verde Valley School's associate director of admissions.

"About 50 percent of our kids get financial aid," he said. "We're determined not to let a student go if we want them at our school."

In the fall of 2000 Shockley, terrified of the change and worried she wasn't prepared for the school's rigorous curriculum, set off for Arizona.

Mason, sensing her trepidation and considering that she lacked the credits to be a junior, suggested that she repeat her sophomore year. But he gave her a choice, explaining that if she chose to remain a junior, she would have a heavy and tough schedule.

Shockley cried.

"They gave me a night to think about it," she said. Shockley called her mother, who told her she was smarter than she thought she was. The next morning she told Mason she would keep her junior standing.

"She hit the ground running and didn't look back," Mason recalled. He remembers Shockley's gifted ability to be able to pick out Confucian themes in Mao Tse Tung's writings during a Chinese history class.

"She was good," he said. "She could grasp that and talk just like Mao. It was scary."

Shockley said she pushed herself relentlessly, spending hours in front of the computer. Within a month she was at the top of her classes. By the time she graduated in 2002, she had earned the school's highest honor, the Pam Warren Citizenship Cup.

"It was my fear of failing," she said.

Mason calls Shockley one of the top 10 brightest students he has taught in his 36 years of teaching over 2,500 students.

He later apologized to her for underestimating her.

"Her intelligence, her depth and her love of learning is incredible," he said.

Shockley's mother tells her not to worry about the money for Dartmouth; she'll get loans. Joy has received almost $30,000 in loans and scholarships toward the Ivy League school's $40,000 annual tuition.

She plans to study Native American literature and environmental science.

Mason has no doubt in her ability to handle Dartmouth and deep down Shockley knows it, too. Attending Verde Valley School prepared her, she said.

"I walked away having something that I haven't had in forever," she said. "And that is confidence."

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