“It’s 8 a.m. in the vast, chilly agricultural-science building, and Clyde McBride is reaching deep into the back end of a cow to deposit prize-winning bull semen. Sixteen teenagers, bunched into a tight semicircle, watch silently, necks craning. Not one of them asks that most pervasive of high school questions: ‘Why do I have to learn this?’ … The students in Monument Valley High School’s ‘ag-science’ program know exactly why they are learning to perform artificial insemination. It empowers them to provide veterinary services that are scarce and crucial to their families and neighbors here in Navajo Nation.” Education Week
“It boosts their employability, confidence, and future wage earnings. And it opens doorways to college. Here in the northeastern corner of Arizona, on an arid plain edged with sandy orange spires and pine-dotted mesas, teenagers have a rare opportunity to practice what policy wonks preach: to study academics through a lens that matters to them. A keen sense of relevance, and of community service, runs deep in students’ work here, where many Navajo families depend on livestock for their livelihood.
Clyde McBride, who is the director of career and technical education in the 2,000-student Kayenta Unified school district, started this program in 1990 and has built it into a powerhouse that catapults students past the odds they’d face without it. In a Native American community of high poverty and unemployment, his 200 students outscore their peers statewide on math and English tests, and 100 percent graduate from high school, outstripping the statewide average by 22 percentage points. Three-quarters of McBride’s graduates enroll in college or training programs. The rest go straight into the workforce.
Responding to Community Need
McBride didn’t focus his agricultural-science program on veterinary skills at random. He saw that it was what the community wanted and needed. People kept asking: Can you come out and treat my colicky horse? Can you help birth our lambs? And there were emergencies, like the time a family’s sheep herd was attacked by wild dogs. McBride summoned a group of students, grabbed his bag of supplies, and raced out to the homestead. Suturing and bandaging like mad, they saved the family’s herd—and their livelihood.
Now, the ag-science building functions as both classroom and community clinic. Dogs, cats, goats, cows, sheep, and horses flow through its big doors all day—more than 12,000 animal patients in the past five years. For a modest fee, community members can get a range of services that are either impossible to find nearby or are too costly.
Trevon Neztsosie, a senior in the program, says he likes the hands-on approach to learning better than sitting in a classroom. With his skills, he can far out-earn the burger flippers down the street and he can help his family, by taking over vaccinations of their sheep, goats, and cattle.‘I like it when I can do something useful.'”