How Navajo Nation students survived ‘exhausting’ pandemic school year

Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi

This story was reported by Searchlight New Mexico, a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization dedicated to investigative reporting in New Mexico, and shared with USA TODAY.

Snuggled between tumbleweeds and utility poles, with a view of Ute Mountain through the windshield, high school sophomore Evan Allen placed his school-issued laptop on the center armrest of his grandmother’s truck and switched on his mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. Another school day was about to begin.

Every weekday, not long after the sun rested on the foothills of the Carrizo Mountains, Evan would rise from his foldout bed in his grandmother’s home in T’iis Názbąs, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation. At about 7:10 a.m., he’d grab his laptop, his school supplies and, if time allowed, some snacks, and make the 5 1/2-mile drive to the top of the hill above the local trading post, where a decent internet connection could be found.