Meet Layola Wallace a Freshman at St. Michael Indian School (SMIS) located in Window Rock, Arizona. This is her first year at SMIS and she has had a fairly easy transition to the school and is currently on the cheerleading squad and would like to try out for soccer next year. She told us that her favorite subject is theology because she didn’t have the class before at her previous school so it is a new learning experience. She wanted to attend St. Michaels because her oldest sister, Ameretta went there and she is Layola’s hero. She is the second youngest of seven kids in her family. Layola is also three quarters Navajo, her mom is full blooded Navajo and her father is half Navajo. She is taking Navajo as a language at SMIS and enjoys the class. Layola’s dad describes her as being, sharp, intelligent and beautiful. In her free time, she to enjoys football and loves watching YouTube and spending time with her dog named LaLa who is a Chihuahua, Shih Tzu and Poodle mix. This love for her dog plays into her wanting to be a veterinarian after she goes to college.
According to her cheerleading coach, Renee Tsinnie, “Layola is building long lasting friendships with her teammates. She’s learned so many skills so quickly and is helping to create school spirit for our teams.” Her English teacher, Joe Carriere, had this to say about Layola, “She dedicates herself to her learning–she thinks, writes, and speaks with care, always seeking new understanding and insight.”
The Wallace Family learned about the Arizona Leadership Foundation Scholarships through SMIS. The family had noted that when their previous children went through the school, they had been in a better financial situation but were thankful for ALF to help fund Layola’s education. Her dad, Allen works for Gallup McKinley County school district in Navajo New Mexico as a custodian and her mom, Charmayne works for a non-emergency medical transport.
About St. Michael Indian School:
St. Michael Indian School (SMIS) is accredited by AdvancED and WCEA for quality assurance and school improvement. SMIS is a member of the National Catholic Education Association and the Diocese of Gallup Catholic School System. 96% of students continue onto a college or university with the others joining the armed services or going into the workforce. 47% of teachers are Catholic and 38% of teachers are alumni. All teachers are local from the surrounding communities. The school is funded through private donors and grant funds with annual support from the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament of Bensalem, PA. Scholarships are available in the state of Arizona through school choice programs. Students are no required to be Catholic and many students of other faiths/denominations attend SMIS including traditional Native American beliefs.
In 1902, Saint Katharine Drexel founded the school providing education opportunities, spiritual growth, empowerment, self-determination, and overall, a better quality of life for Native Americans. Saint Katharine met with Navajo leaders in 1900 whom had visited Saint Catherine Indian School and agreed to support the school in hope that the school would help the Navajos toward improving their living conditions. In March of 1902, the school began construction and on December 3 of that same year, the school opened. By the next year, 76 students were enrolled. In 1950 the school held its first high school commencement. The preschool opened its doors in 2015 and expanded to a two-year-old classroom in 2021.