Early Childhood Expert Honored by Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Alumni Council

May 17, 2016

Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, the 2016 recipient of Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Alumni Council Award

Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, the 2016 recipient of Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Alumni Council Award

Congratulations to the American Indian College Fund’s Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, the 2016 recipient of Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contribution. “This award is a beautiful honor, and it is entirely unexpected,” Yazzie-Mintz says. “As a doctoral student at Harvard (HGSE), I often felt that my work focusing on Native education was invisible…; receiving this award is a wonderful surprise, as it indicates that HGSE’s Alumni Council and institution recognizes this work and validates it as an important contribution to the field of education. This powerful recognition is not just for me, but celebrates collective work over time: my work with Native teachers, with tribal colleges, and universities, and with tribal communities. I believe in creating opportunities for change to happen from within Native communities, doing this work with Native communities, not for them. It is powerful to work toward empowering historically underfunded and disenfranchised communities; empowerment is a sustainable action and impact on Native communities and children.”

Following her graduation from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Yazzie-Mintz spent two years working in the Boston Public Schools before becoming an assistant professor in curriculum and instruction at Indiana University. There she worked with the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. For the past four years she has dedicated her expertise to work with tribal colleges and universities by developing early childhood programs and early learning centers at the American Indian College Fund through its Wakanyeja Sacred Little Ones Early Childhood Education Initiative and the Ké’ Early Childhood Initiative. With these programs, Yazzie-Mintz is helping to develop curriculum based on each community’s unique language, culture, and educational practices.

Yazzie-Mintz is currently the Co-Director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at the College Fund and Senior Program Officer for early childhood education initiatives. She has devoted her professional career to improving access to early education for American Indian and Alaska Native children. She will be presented with the award at the Harvard Graduate School of Education convocation ceremony on May 25.

Harvard Graduate School of Education Alumni Council chair Jonathan Steele, Ed.M. ’05 said, “The Alumni Council is thrilled to present Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz with the 2016 Alumni Council Award and recognize her groundbreaking work in early childhood education. “Tarajean’s work developing the Wakanyeja Sacred Little Ones program and The Ké’ Early Childhood Initiative, both of which embrace and incorporate the culture and heritage of the tribal communities they serve, is remarkable. While she could have continued on her very successful, traditional academic path, she turned away from a tenure-track position to pursue the development of these early learning programs and continues to present original education research about their development and success.”

Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, “The College Fund is pleased that Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz is being recognized for her amazing contributions to the early childhood education field. Her focus on Native children and their families creates empowering, creative, and joyous experiences, leading her program participants down a path that promises lifelong educational success. Not only does her work matter for our tribal colleges and their students, it matters in the field of early childhood education for all children. All of us at the College Fund and at our tribal colleges congratulate Tarajean and share in her happiness at her receipt of this award.”

About The Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education

The Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education began in 1985 in order to recognize significant service to education by alumni. Candidates must be graduates of HGSE and have made a noteworthy contribution to education during their professional careers in order to be nominated.
Read the full story here: http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/16/05/yazzie-mintz-receive-alumni-council-award.