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Working with young children requires special abilities and personal skills. Their love and commitment to educate these young minds allowed seven Tuba City High School senior students to earn their national Child Development Associate credential. 

Velene Curtis, Jaime Nelson, Samantha Yazzie, Joseph Justice, Micah Bahe, Kendriana Davis and Malory Masayumptewa, all Coconino Community College Dual Enrollment students, were awarded a CDA credential in recognition for their outstanding work with young children.  

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

“This major accomplishment involved the establishment of collaborative partnerships to develop an educational pathway for students in early childhood education,” said TCHS instructor and program coordinator Aurora Goatcher. “CDA program team members include the local agencies, faculty and administrators responsible for secondary and postsecondary CTE, Coconino Community College, United States Department of Education Rigorous Program of Study, Arizona Department of Education: Career and Technical Education Division, Northeast Joint Technological Education District (JTED) and Arizona First Things First.” 

Kathy Nesbit, CCC dual enrollment transitions coordinator, and Melissa Begay, FTF Navajo Nation regional partnership director, developed a special grant to fund TCHS first CDA cohort. 

The cost of the three-year National Credential Program totaled $120,000, which translates to $17,142 per student. CDA students received a full scholarship that included CCC tuition wavers and First Things First Scholarship funds. 

The TCHS Child Development lab is an extension of the classroom and works closely with FTF Quality First Coaches to ensure the best learning environment for preschool students. ECE instructors mentor CDA interns and model positive guidance and teaching skills. 

“Ms. Cheryl Pooyouma, teacher assistant, has done a phenomenal job to complete all the requirements needed to obtain an Arizona Department of Health Services license and to expand the Child Development program,” Goatcatcher said. “Mrs. Catrina Herbert, lead teacher at the occupational lab, supervises our early childhood curriculum planning and instruction. Wenona Adams, teacher assistant, supervises classroom activities and assists with mentoring high school students at the occupational lab.”

Velene Curtis enrolled in the early childhood class as a sophomore elective.

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to work with young children and earn a CDA credential. 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.”

“I took my first ECE course on a whim during my sophomore year and I’m so glad that I did,” Joseph Justice added. “I stumbled into an amazing program, and I am so grateful to all those that played a part in developing the program. 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 and I am interested in things like psychology and social work. I am thankful that this program gave me an amazing head start in my life and educational goals.”  

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

Goatcather said the CDA program would like to acknowledge the following people for their ontribution to the success of the program:

Paul Holbrook, chair of CCC’s Business and Education Department; Monica Baker, CCC’s dean of Career and Technical Education; Kevin Mullins, FTF grant coordinator at CCC; Kathy Nesbit, FTF grant manager at CCC; Nola Cardani, CDA program specialist at CCC; Woody Begay, TCHS career and technical education director; and Melisa Begay, Navajo Nation Regional Partnership Council’s FTF regional director.

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