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2013 NIEA Board Candidates: Ronalda Warito-Tome
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Ronalda Warito-Tome



Deciding to pursue a career in Special Education and Parent Involvement has been a journey with many turns and decisions which were not very apparent in beginning of my career. I had to venture to this place based on my personal experiences and life pursuits. Within these last couple of years my life has had significant doors open up to give me the voice I need to speak on behalf of our Native families and children who have disabilities. My significant job is one which I have primarily crafted to meet my passion and strengths.

The one piece which I would define as a turning point in my life was having my three children who have minds which learn differently and need someone to be the voice for their mode of learning. Having a child with a disability and being gifted (twice-exceptional), brought on those significant challenges, but help me to see how marvelous this child was in his ability to just brighten up the world around him. My other two children would show me the other side of being bright and gifted. This would only bring me to see the significant disadvantages Native children face in education, but also see how a Native child with a disability was even more disadvantaged. I saw these disadvantages in the raising my own children.

These challenges would take me back to school to obtain my teaching license in Special Education at the University of Northern Colorado and become a teacher. But I would only come to recognize that as an advocate in a system and speaking up for those who are at a disadvantage would only backfire on me. Because I was known as someone who would challenge the system and would eventually learn to change it, no one would hire me as a teacher. So there began my pursuits to change a system from the outside in.

I am very steadfast, resourceful, determined if given a challenge and if anyone were to tell me "no, you can’t do that”, I would initially prove them wrong. I have been a trainer and advocate for Education for Parent of Indian Children of Special Needs in Albuquerque, NM for six years. We work with the 22 tribes in New Mexico helping parents understand their rights and how to advocate for their child in special education. I have the unique pleasure of sitting at the table advocating for parents to have a voice, training in the special education process, and sitting with professionals in understanding our Native families. As any parent would say: "The school district gives us red carpet treatment when you advocate for us.”

I aspire to make a difference and to bring harmony to an imbalance educational system where the identity of our Native children with disabilities is forgotten. I have learned it is about creating partnerships with those who work in the system and by sitting on key boards, committees and councils to create change. To mentor parents to become their own changing agents in their communities to work with their tribal leaders and eventually to sit on school boards. In this whole process of advocating, I have gain the confidence to be a Navajo woman who has set high standards for herself and for my people. 

I have pursued only excellence for it would be what my grandmothers would have wanted for myself and my children. I am Hasht'ishnii (Mud Clan) born for Naashashi (Bear Clan). Ma'ii Deeshgiizhinii (Coyote Pass People Clan) is my maternal grandfather's clan and Naakaii Dine' (the Mexican Clan) is my paternal grandfather's clan. I am Dine'.

 National Indian Education Association
1514 P Street, NW, Suite B
Washington, DC  20005
202.544.7290 | 202.544.7293 (Fax) 
Our Mission:  The National Indian Education
Association (NIEA) advances comprehensive
educational opportunities for American Indians,
Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians throughout
the United States.