Starting in the fall of 2016, NPC received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to bring higher education courses to high school students in the remote, rural areas of Northeast Arizona. Without this opportunity, a college education would be beyond the geographical and financial reach of many of these students. This year 14 schools are participating in Project TALON, which stands for Technology to Advance Learning Outcomes at Northland, and nearly 200 high school students have taken advantage of this great opportunity – free of charge! Derwin Tallman, a 2018 graduate of Shonto Preparatory School and a TALON student, has learned valuable skills that helped him shape his education and career aspirations.

Derwin Tallman learns about philosophy in the TALON classroom at the NPC Kayenta Center.

While in high school, Tallman earned 12 college credits through NPC. He excelled in two math classes and an English class. He repeated a second English class and did very well. The college opportunities provided by NPC during Tallman’s high school education have inspired him to continue at NPC and even pursue a bachelor’s degree in sociology. His career goal is to work with adolescents in juvenile detention centers.

Tallman says that taking NPC college classes in high school was a huge learning experience for him and he was not willing to accept failure in that English class. “The second time around, I knew what to expect from the course and how to go about it. Failing the first time actually motivated me to do better, and I asked myself, ‘I have already come this far, why stop now?’ I made tutoring and English class my priorities. The TALON experience taught me time management skills and responsibility.”

“I encourage high school students to take classes through TALON,” Tallman says. “I’m telling the underclassmen at Shonto Preparatory to start taking college level classes now, even if it is just one. Begin taking college level classes as soon as the opportunity presents itself and earn as much college credit as you can while in high school.”

“Derwin is a perfect example of why NPC exists,” says Renell Heister, director of the TALON program. “TALON is a valuable, eye-opening experience for the students in remote high schools. The program provides access to rigorous college courses, and 90 percent of them successfully completed courses in the first year of the program! It is helping to transform lives and show students who may have thought college wasn’t for them that it is possible.”

High school students should speak to their guidance counselor about how they can earn college credit at the same time they work toward their high school diploma.