Since 2016, the schools and families of Utah’s Navajo Nation communities in Bluff and Montezuma Creek have graciously embraced teaching and connecting with Rowland Hall students and faculty during Upper School Interim and beyond.
They’ve invited us into their homes, shared their traditions, and even traveled to our school for race-relations workshops, strengthening our nation-to-nation ties. In the wake of COVID-19, Rowland Hall finally had a chance to give back. Our students, families, and dozens of alumni affiliated with Navajo Nation projects in past years rallied to collect three truckloads of resources for hard-hit Navajo families and schools.
Donations included 68 art kits for elementary-aged kids, enough art supplies to cover curriculum needs for all Whitehorse middle and high schoolers, 52 gift certificates, 200 homemade masks, five donation checks, and various household items—from toilet paper and feminine hygiene products, to cleaning supplies and pet food.
In mid-May, a small-but-mighty contingency of Rowland Hall folks made the trek down to Bluff: Director of Arts Sofa Gorder and her children, Jules Framme (fourth grade) and Solenne Framme (kindergarten); Director of Community Programs Allison Spehar and her daughter, Chiyoko Spehar (eighth grade); and alum Yuan Oliver Jin ’18. The group met administrators from local schools and the executive director of We Are Navajo, and they worked together to sort through every single donation and help get it to the best place. Donations included 68 art kits for elementary-aged kids, enough art supplies to cover curriculum needs for all Whitehorse middle and high schoolers, 52 gift certificates, 200 homemade masks, five donation checks, and various household items—from toilet paper and feminine hygiene products, to cleaning supplies and pet food. In addition to We Are Navajo and the White Horse students, donations went to the Rural Utah Project and to emergency medical technicians volunteering in Bluff.
Junior Elena Barker had been eager to visit the Navajo Nation for Interim this spring—she would’ve worked on art projects with kindergarteners. After the pandemic hit, she and her family sprang into action, donating art supplies for kids and gift cards to help Navajo seniors attend summer programs at a college in Price. “I wanted whatever we did to make kids smile,” Elena said, “or allow kids to explore different aspects of education that they are interested in.”
Sofia and Allison gave a sincere shoutout to the approximately 100 community members like Elena who put hard and fast work into making this happen. “Our effort does not go unnoticed,” Allison said. “There is so much gratitude from our partners on the Navajo Nation. And, in reality, it barely scratches the surface of the kind of support this community deserves as a part of our state and country.” The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and magnified institutional inequities, Sofia explained. “While there is so much more work to be done, this very moment is one that shows the true utility in authentic partnerships between communities that are vastly different, but that share boundaries.”
While there is so much more work to be done, this very moment is one that shows the true utility in authentic partnerships between communities that are vastly different, but that share boundaries.—Director of Arts Sofa Gorder
Junior Katie Kern—who visited the Navajo Nation for Interim in 2019 and would’ve gone again this year—echoed Allison and Sofia’s sentiments. “The people that I met in the Navajo Nation are simply good people who don't deserve what is going on right now,” Katie said, recalling how she loved dancing with the middle schoolers there, and meeting fellow high schoolers. “When good people go through something like this and resources become scarce, people need to come together and do what they can to provide some comfort.”
And we were able to provide some comfort, Sofia reiterated, due to our several years spent building trust and relationships. “Without these relationships, I am almost positive we would have seen less effort from our current and past students, and much less efficiency in getting the collected supplies to the right places and to the right people in a timely manner.”
Allison and Sofia gave a special thanks to the following community members who helped to make this happen through work and donations: Middle School Administrative Assistant Andrea Beckman; Brian, Karey, and Elena Barker; Martin, Krista, and Katie Kern; junior Samantha Paisley; parent Jacqueline Wittmeyer; Upper School Principal Ingrid Gustavson and family; and Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund.