Tuesday, January 3, 2017

In Navajo Nation, a Basketball Elder Earns Respect; New York Times, 1/1/17

Michael Powell, New York Times; In Navajo Nation, a Basketball Elder Earns Respect:

"Mendoza took a battery of tests and aced math. He applied to a college and was awarded grants. He met his wife, Marjorie, a Navajo, in college. She got pregnant, and they dropped out. Mendoza worked in a factory, making $30,000 a year.

It was good money, yet again he felt an ache: He wanted to coach and teach children to navigate new worlds. When he quit his factory job, his friends hooted: “You’re crazy! You won’t make any money teaching!

He paused, laughing.

“Sure enough, my first job at Window Rock, I made $9,500 a year.”

Mendoza has worked ever since as a guidance counselor and coach in the Navajo Nation and the Apache Nation in the White Mountains. His wife teaches on the reservation.

These nations are bounded by mountains and forests and buttes, with embracing clans, leaders and spiritualism woven deep. Each is poor, plagued by alcoholism and drug abuse and fractured families...

The Apache reservation suffered an epidemic of teenage suicide. Mendoza is a master at infusing the rez ball whirlwind with offensive and defensive discipline. His proudest accomplishment, however, was this: None of his teenagers took their own lives.

“I told the kids, ‘I understand, I knew fear,’” he said. “I learned how anger can affect you.”"

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