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MNU Welcomes Navajo School Children for a Summer Break

Seven Navajo Indian children and teens are enjoying the second half of a two week stay in Kansas this week. The students from Sun Valley Indian School (SVIS) in Sun Valley, Arizona are here as part of an outreach by MNU professor of education Dr. Jo Lamar and her husband, MNU men’s basketball coach Rocky Lamar. SVIS is an independent, non-profit Christian boarding school affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene, and devoted to helping students to develop their Christian character through teaching and discipleship. The Lamar’s, along with several MNU education majors and basketball players have visited SVIS every spring for the last four years to teach and hold basketball camps.

The goal of the trips is to provide assistance to SVIS’s teaching staff as well as healthy activity for the children. Awards earned at the camp are a popular way the Lamar’s encourage and reward the children’s hard work and achievements which in turn boosts their self-confidence.

Two years ago the group decided their efforts to enrich the children’s lives could be strengthened by bringing the kids to Olathe for two weeks over the summer. Most of the children the Lamar’s encounter there, believe they could never attend college, so the couple asked MNU to assist in showing the group how much financial assistance is available, especially for those of American Indians.

“When we visit them in Arizona we get them excited about the possibility of college, but we are just there one week,” Jo Lamar says. “We thought if we could get them here, on a campus tour, to eat in cafeteria, be in our gym, etc., it would help them envision themselves in college.”

MNU director of student financial services Perry Diehm presents the students with information on federal grants and assistance they can receive through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The goal is to show them that there is help for them to afford college if they want to attend, and that can open doors for them in the future.

Tammy Dowd, mother of MNU point guard Rustin Dowd, is a host for four of the teens this summer. Her guests are the four youngest siblings in a family of 10 children.

“The students are in less than desirable conditions when they leave SVIS in the summer,” Dowd says. “Sometimes they don’t have enough food and often there’s little supervision. I want them to see there is life outside the reservation and to realize they can do more.”

The Dowds and other volunteers in the area provide healthy activities, a homey environment and fun family dinners. About 20 volunteers provide tickets to venues such as Science City, the Royals and T-Bones, as well as donating food and money to assist the project. According to Dowd it’s a labor of love that brings her joy.

“We just love on them,” she says. “I had one girl who told me she didn’t believe in love. I said, ‘Why? Do you know why we are doing this?’ She answered that she had been wondering why so I told her, because we love you. Showing them love is the most important thing we do.”

The Lamar’s and many MNU students work year round to raise funds for SVIS as well as to fund the mission trips and pay for flights to bring the children to Olathe.

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