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Tuba City High Students Earn Early Childhood Development Degrees
by Navajo-Hopi Observer staff

TUBA CITY, AZ. - Seven Tuba City High School (TCHS) seniors were awarded child development associate (CDA) degrees May 15 in recognition for their work with young children as part of a dual enrollment program with Coconino Community College (CCC).

Velene Curtis, Jaime Nelson, Samantha Yazzie, Joseph Justice, Micah Bahe, Kendriana Davis and Malory Masayumptewa were honored at a ceremony at Tuba City High School.

The National Council for Professional Recognition in Washington, D.C. awards credentials to early childhood educators who demonstrate the ability to constructively work with children in group settings.

"It takes special knowledge, skills and expertise to be an effective teacher of young children and it's a great honor to earn a CDA," said National Council for Professional Recognition Chief Executive Officer Valora Washington. "These TCHS students were able to complete this Early Childhood Education (ECE) rigorous program of study while attending high school and showed their commitment to quality early childhood education."

The requirements needed to earn a CDA credential include: 480 hours of ECE fieldwork in a licensed facility, completing a CDA professional portfolio, passing the CDA online national assessment, completing 24 college credits in ECE and three and one-third class room observation hours conducted by a CDA professional development specialist.

TCHS is the third school in the nation to award CDA national credentials to high school students.

The school's Child Development Associate Program is based on standards that define what students are expected to know and be able to do to enter and advance in college and careers. The programs core standards incorporate essential rigorous knowledge and skills in English and mathematics that employers expect of high school graduates and incorporates industry-recognized technical standards that are valued and essential in the workplace.

Aurora Goatcher, TCHS instructor and program coordinator, said the CDA training is filled with hands-on opportunities for students to gain and demonstrate skills and knowledge and to actively engage students in solving real problems.

"We have great students at Tuba City High School and a strong early childhood education program so we knew we could implement this CDA National Credential Program," Goatcher said.

CCC Dual Enrollment Transitions Coordinator Kathy Nesbit and First Things First Navajo Nation Regional Partnership Director Melissa Begay developed a grant to fund the school's first CDA class. The cost of the three-year National Credential Program totaled $120,000 or $17,142 per student. CDA students received a full scholarship that included CCC tuition waivers and First Things First Scholarship funds.

The TCHS child development lab is an extension of the classroom and is used with help from First Things First Quality First coaches to ensure the best learning environment for the preschool students. Highly qualified ECE instructors mentor CDA interns and model positive guidance and teaching skills.

Velene Curtis, a student enrolled in the early childhood class as a sophomore elective, said she has enjoyed the opportunity to work with young children and earn her CDA degree.

"It is great to watch them grow and develop physically and mentally every day," she said. "I plan to attend Coconino Community College to further my education to become a preschool teacher. This program gave me a head start in my college and career preparation."

Joseph Justice said he took his first ECE course on a whim during his sophomore year and he is glad he did.

"I stumbled into an amazing program and I am so grateful to all those that played a part in developing the program," he said. "I have been able to explore my interests in early childhood free of cost and while still in high school. This experience is invaluable to me. I really want to pursue a career in early childhood education and I am interested in things like psychology and social work."

Justice will attend Idaho University in the fall as a sophomore.

Malory Masayumptewa said working with preschool children has taught her a lot and she plans to attend CCC next year and become an elementary education teacher and work part time as a preschool teacher.

"It is a great opportunity to get to know them and teach them new learning skills," she said.

Jamie Nelson said he plans to attend CCC too and become an elementary or physical education teacher. Samantha Yazzie will pursue a child psychology degree at Brigham Young Univeristy in the fall. Micah Bahe will attend Arizona State University to become an early childhood education teacher. Kendriana Davis may work in early childhood while pursuing her elementary education degree.

"All these students will greatly benefit from earning a national industry credential as well as completing their first year in college while still attending TCHS," Goatcher said.

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