Case Statement

On Eagle’s Wings & Blue Bird Buses:
Students Soar at Rehoboth Christian School

A Case Statement

And he will lift you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of his hand.

-Lyrics from “On Eagle’s Wings” by Michael Joncas

Sacred Circles

Life has turned in a full circle for Donnie and Renee Begay. As graduates of Rehoboth in 1999 and 2000, Donnie and Renee both swung their tassels and headed south as high school sweethearts to attend New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

Renee grew up in a deeply traditional Native American home among the Zuni Pueblo people. Her indigenous home sits 50 miles from Rehoboth, just beyond the Zuni Sacred Mountain known as Corn Mesa. Renee’s student years at Rehoboth from the 9th grade through graduation offered many poignant glimpses into the Christian way: difficult glimpses of a life she sought but one that conflicted with her own upbringing and the traditional Zuni teachings of her youth. As a high school student, in the office of Rehoboth’s counselor, Renee discovered the liberating truth that she could embrace Christianity as a young Zuni woman. She learned that God can blend faith, culture and family while pacifying a restless life. Renee responded wholeheartedly.

Donnie’s roots were planted deep in a Christian Navajo family with many connections to Rehoboth Christian School. Donnie begged his parents to attend Rehoboth, admitting now that he really understood little of what it meant to be a Christian at the time. However, in hidden ways, unknown even to him, Donnie’s faith took root during his Rehoboth school years in a rich loamy soil.

At NMSU, Donnie and Renee seriously pursued their studies, building on a good academic foundation laid at Rehoboth. And they seriously pursued each other, getting married in the summer of 200-. Together, they found their hearts captivated by scripture and their faith built up through the training and discipleship ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

Today, Donnie and Renee have circled back to Rehoboth for a time. This winsome, spiritually sensitive couple leads the youth group at Rehoboth CRC and participates in school chapels and discipleship with Rehoboth students. With their sights set on a ministry to Native American undergraduate students at NMSU Las Cruces (and on building a diverse nation-wide tribal ministry through Campus Crusade), Donnie and Renee’s lives illustrate to our current staff and students the life-changing outcomes of a Rehoboth education.

Lives shaped by an education that is “Vigorously Academic, Beautifully Diverse, Thoroughly Christian.”

Lives that serve God and others.

Lives that soar.

“Bottomed-out” Schools and Families in New Mexico

Why the need for students to soar? Why the need for all New Mexican children to rise “On Eagle’s Wings”? On March 3, 2007, a cover story in The Albuquerque Journal described the educational plight of students in New Mexico. The title says it all: “School System Scrapes Bottom: Nationwide Study Gives New Mexico F’s.  This study of educational “Leaders and Laggards” across the nation, clearly labeled New Mexico a laggard; the State “took a beating for low academic achievement, particularly among poor and minority students.” It also received straight F’s for “Return on investment” and “Postsecondary workforce readiness.” In fact, it ended up at the bottom of America’s bell curve when matched against all states across the nation.

In this setting, the need for positive, Christ-centered education for Native American students is critical. In McKinley County, where Rehoboth is situated, as many as 30 out of 31 public schools appeared on local and state failing lists in recent years. Apart from Rehoboth, only a handful of small struggling Christian schools exist anywhere near the Navajo Nation. Despite rich cultural and historic roots in the area, the lack of industry and quality education combined with the presence of widespread family dysfunction, poverty and alcoholism creates a depressingly hopeless landscape for many Native American young people.

Add to this the spiritual hunger of parents who seek substance in their own lives and who long for their children to know “a future and a hope” and you begin to see the cavernous needs of children and families in Northwestern New Mexico.

Why Rehoboth?

Warm hearts across the nation seek causes that change the lives of the poor. Christians determine to remember those less fortunate than themselves with their gifts and their service. But what causes are truly worthy of investment? Where can a dollar and one’s dedicated prayers make a difference for good in the lives of real children and families?

"Rehoboth Christian School has a long history of providing a high-quality educational environment for the children of Gallup, the Navajo Nation, and the Zuni Pueblo…It is important that we strive to have schools such as Rehoboth Christian School that are seen as a model of excellence for other schools serving New Mexico’s low-income and minority communities."        

-Senator Pete V. Domenici, (R), United States Senate

Rehoboth believes results matter. Return on investment is a keystone of good stewardship.

  • We believe Rehoboth introduces children and families to a hopeful relationship with Jesus Christ.

“I believe there is a God and that He sent His Son to die for me.  I know that I am not worthy of it, but that’s God's love for you.  At one time I didn't believe this.  I didn't actually get to really learn and know who God is, until I came here in my 8th grade year to Rehoboth.  When I came here I had no faith compared to what I have now.”

–Excerpt from Senior Portfolio Statement of Faith

  • We believe that through exemplary teaching and educational programs Rehoboth graduates are prepared to be successful ambassadors of hope and healing to the Navajo Nation and beyond, in medicine, education, ministry, business as well as in church and home life.

64% of Rehoboth teachers hold Masters Degrees. Rehoboth graduates serve as physicians and nurses, as Navajo Nation representatives, as lawyers, artists, business and tribal leaders, educators, dedicated parents, pastors and para-church leaders, social workers, scholars and servants to a world in need.

  • We believe that education is key to reversing the cycle of poverty.

Nationwide, a dismal 15% of Native American high school graduates attend college. For the past five years, an average of 90% of Rehoboth graduates enrolled in 2 or 4 year colleges, the vast majority of them Native Americans. Rehoboth seniors have been sought by institutions like Barnard College, Seattle Pacific, McGill University, Georgetown, Cornell, Calvin College, and Wheaton College as well as a wide variety of state, private and Christian colleges throughout the country.

  • We believe that Rehoboth offers students consistent opportunities for service, scholarship and contribution that transform them from recipients to givers.

From kindergarten to graduation, Rehoboth students learn to serve their families, fellow students and the broader community through local and campus based service projects, and through mission and service trips.

Rehoboth graduates have been recipients of the Chief Manuelito scholarship, the highest Navajo academic honor. As well, since 2003, eight Rehoboth students have received the Gates Millennium Scholarship in recognition of their scholarship, service and financial need. (This most prestigious minority scholarship sponsors a graduate’s full college tuition through to a PhD at the college or university of their choice.)

The school itself was awarded both the “Models of Excellence” grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Excellence Award from Educate New Mexico.

These are striking accomplishments when you consider that Rehoboth is located in one of the poorest counties in the United States. Despite the fact that students come from communities with up to 75% unemployment rates (in Zuni Pueblo, 2006) and rampant poverty, Rehoboth students show a high commitment to learning, service and leadership, many investing up to 14 hour school days between travel, study, homework and extracurricular activities.

Rehoboth’s Mission and History

“Rehoboth Christian School challenges its students to know the Triune God and equips them to love, serve and transform the world in His name.”

Rehoboth is a private K-12 school that serves over 400 students in the Northwest corner of New Mexico, where two-thirds of the Navajo Nation resides. The school was founded in 1903 to educate the Navajo and Zuni children, a full nine years before New Mexico officially became a state. Rehoboth began with 6 boarding students and in 19-- graduated # students in its first graduating class.

Today, students from diverse economic, spiritual and ethnic backgrounds commute from a 60-mile radius to attend Rehoboth, primarily from surrounding Indian Reservations and local villages. Our student body, a cross section of the region’s ethnic makeup, is 70% Native American, 9% Hispanic, Asian or African American and other ethnic minorities, and 21% Anglo. As well, 51% of Rehoboth students come from poverty level or low-income homes. Since 1982, Rehoboth Christian School has been governed by a parent-controlled, Native American majority board, which leads the school with competence and wisdom into its 2nd century of service.

With its transformation from a boarding to a day school in 2000, Rehoboth shifted its focus from being “campus-centered” to more deliberately engaging the surrounding community, reaching out to reservation families, and making efforts to love and serve people in the Four Corners Region “in His name.” Rehoboth seeks to use its reputation as a regional model of educational excellence for the benefit of all students and educators in McKinley County.

In 2004, Rehoboth initiated the Red Rock Coalition of Secondary Schools. This Coalition, funded by Rehoboth’s Phase II grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, brings together 13 administrators monthly from public, charter, private, BIA and parochial high schools across McKinley County to develop and fund initiatives that address district wide concerns in education. The Coalition’s unprecedented collaborative work, and Rehoboth’s leadership of it, has gained the praise and attention of the Search Institute, the American Indian Graduate Center and members of the New Mexico Department of Education.

Rehoboth offers the added value of hands-on service opportunities for those interested in investing with their heart and hands to the school and the children it serves. In response to its perpetual invitation to serve, over # volunteers travel to Rehoboth annually from # states, lending a hand in construction projects, kitchen work, tutoring, after-school programming, teaching, business and office work, landscaping and many other activities tailored to the gifts and interests of those who serve and to Rehoboth’s needs.

Exodus 19:4 (NIV) "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself."

Financial Attrition: The Plight of Rehoboth Parents

Rehoboth Christian School serves children and families who know what it’s like to scrape bottom at school and at home. Many come from homes without running water or telephone service, and whose parents struggle to meet basic needs. The majority of our Native American children enroll at Rehoboth because of the financial sacrifice and spiritual concern of a parent, a grandmother or an auntie who seeks a better path for them – a path that will lead to Kingdom living and wholeness of body, mind and spirit.

With most individuals in the region making under $10,000 per year and almost half of the youth under 18 living in poverty (42%) this sacrifice does not come easily. However, based on Rehoboth’s commitment to welcome any child who meets its entrance qualification regardless of economic background, the school faces two enormous responsibilities each year.

 

1. First, it must raise approximately 1.5 million dollars annually in scholarship, tuition assistance and operational funds. (To our knowledge no other school in the Christian Schools International Network needs to raise this level of funding annually.) Based on the school’s demographics and operational costs, tuition fees cannot fully cover the cost of a Rehoboth education. In part, this situation is leading to what the school calls its “collision course” –an impending clash between rising educational costs and high tuition assistance demands.

2. Second, it must effectively help families find ways to break the cycle of poverty while holding them accountable for tuition payments. Despite drastic tuition reductions for low-income families, 60% of families who leave Rehoboth cite financial stress as their number one reason for withdrawing their child.

Looking to the Sky

Without a doubt, Rehoboth is unique. In a region where few educational successes can be celebrated, where few investments see returns in eternal and “every day” ways, where the need is so great and the resources so wanting, there serves Rehoboth.

A school that is “Vigorously Academic, Beautifully Diverse, Thoroughly Christian.”

A school that serves God and others.

A school that helps kids soar.

We believe that Rehoboth is the premier school for Christian Native education in New Mexico and that its reach can bless other Native schools and Christian schools around the nation. Each year, Rehoboth Christian School renews its commitment to make exemplary education accessible to deserving and financially needy children by raising nearly $1.5 million in operational dollars, tuition aid and scholarship funds. While an ambitious and demanding goal, Rehoboth pursues it so that every child accepted to RCS, no matter how poor or marginalized, can experience an academically rigorous, culturally relevant and spiritually rich education.

We ask you to consider how you can serve some of the most promising children in New Mexico by supporting the work of Rehoboth. Wings are fluttering around here. Families are looking to the sky, just knowing that some day their children will soar to places they’ve never been. You can be a part of that flight, that family story. Please give generously and consider how you can help change the lives of families and children in New Mexico.