2019 Running Strong for American Indian Youth Dreamstarter Kevin Belin (Navajo Nation), 30, of Crownpoint, New Mexico, is realizing his dream “Hashké – Hozhó Design & Collaborative” by creating cultural materials and resources for the modern classroom, utilizing various approaches and methods to learning the Navajo language and culture.
“We plan to expand and create resources for the modern classroom and bring the classroom closer to individuals far from the reservation to learn the Navajo language and foundational cultural knowledge,” Kevin told us in his Dreamstarter application. “We need to adapt to the ever-changing world; technology will be a key component to learning.”
Kevin is a Navajo language teacher at the Navajo Preparatory School in Farmington, and was a Navajo cultural and traditional leader at T’iis Ts’ózí Bí’ółta Crownpoint Community School for nearly four years at the time of his application.
As the owner of the Hashké – Hozhó Design & Collaborative since October, 2016 Kevin envisions HHD&C becoming a full-time press and publisher of language acquisition curriculum, materials and resources, but he realizes that first his dream must become a self-sustaining and profitable company.
“As a Diné educator, I see that our students are not learning the Navajo language,” says Kevin. “Community members speak fluently with each other, but our students converse in English.”
Earlier this year, Kevin told us that “If it was not for this grant and the support I have received, I would not have had the ability to be where I am today.
“My people are grateful for the teachings and stories we share,” he continued. “There are countless elders who say they have not heard our songs; they never engage in the cultural stories or never realized how our stories have helped them in their daily lives.”
Kevin told us of recently visiting a community in Arizona where they presented cultural stories and of one elder who was particularly moved.
“This elder was engaged in the presentation and was all smiles the entire time. At the end of the presentation she approached us and expressed her gratitude and how she had never participated in the cultural game of Késhjéé’, the shoe game, which is played in the cold winter months in Navajo communities to strengthen communal bonds and teach Navajo philosophy through song.
“This is not the only time,” he added. “At every presentation people show their appreciation for our efforts.”
A staff member at a school in Flagstaff reported that Kevin’s presentation was very informative and interactive for the students.
“He was patient with the audience and gave time for questions. The people who attended his presentation were very impressed and to this day I hear his name. I have been asked if he could do another presentation next year.”
Kevin explained that he returned home from the Dreamstarter Academy in the spring motivated “and ready to run full force.” But just as he was getting started, his beloved grandfather passed away and he had just made it back in time to sit with him in his last moments.
“The funeral and morning process was difficult and I lost my motivation,” he recounted.
However, during this difficult time in his life, because of the Running Strong grant and his mentor organization, the Diné Language Teachers Association, he was recommended for his current job “which is amazing” and resumed the pursuit of his dream.
With determination and perseverance, the struggles and obstacles he faced “did not deter me from my goals and I did not waste time with the company.”
To the supporters of Running Strong and his dream, Kevin wants them to know that he is representing Running Strong well and “inspiring our youth to embrace their culture and reconnect.
“My dream job and this wonderful opportunity to share my culture and inspire my people is all thanks to you. My simple explanation cannot begin to express how Running Strong has helped me to this point in my life.”