Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, co-director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at the American Indian College Fund and Senior Program Officer for early childhood education initiatives, was named 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 said in a press release. “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.”
After graduating 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. While there she worked with the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. For the past four years she has worked with tribal colleges and universities to develop 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. Through these programs, she is developing curriculum based on each community’s unique language, culture, and educational practices.
“She has devoted her professional career to improving access to early education for American Indian and Alaska Native children,” reads a College Fund press release.
Yazzie-Mintz will be presented the award today, May 25 during the Harvard Graduate School of Education convocation ceremony.