Sterling Scholar program’s impressive legacy

Mar 4, 2024, 6:19 PM

As Wyatt Manygoats walks to engineering class at the University of Utah, he reflects on the journey it took to get him there.

“I live on the reservation, I understand what people are going through, and I have family members that don’t have running water or electricity or even a road to their home,” he said.

He’s sacrificed for education. He left the reservation at 14 to join other Navajo students at Richfield High School and live in the residence hall.

Wyatt Manygoats on the reservation. (Wyatt Manygoats)

Academic Director Sylvia Nielson says it is a sacrifice the family makes to help their children gain access to resources they wouldn’t have on the reservation.

“The parents know what quality education Richfield High School has to offer. Plus, we have Snow College, so students can earn college credit their junior year,” she said.

Wyatt ended up graduating from Snow College with an associate’s degree, before graduating from high school. He was named the KSL/Deseret News Sterling Scholar in science in 2023.

His teachers say what makes Wyatt special is his dedication to school and to serving others, especially him Navajo community.

Wyatt Manygoats and friends at graduation. (Wyatt Manygoats)

“He was a perfect example of leadership, service had great academic goals and he always worked hard to achieve them,” Melissa Whatcott, Wyatt’s math teacher, said.

“He’s the type of person who sees the American dream if you want to put if that way, sets his goals and then hits them head on,” Dave Sorensen, a school counselor, said.

For all the accolades, teachers were admittedly a little surprised when he announced he’d been accepted to Harvard’s pre-college summer program.

“I was freaking out!” Manygoats said.

He got accepted for college at Harvard and Yale, but since the Sterling Scholarship paid for his in-state tuition, Wyatt returned to the University of Utah.

He attends classes in engineering and lives in the honors dorms. He’s far from home, but never forgets his roots.

In fact, hanging from his bed post is a little sweatshirt that belongs to his nephew.  It reminds him that all this hard work, away from his family will one day bring him back to the reservation. He hopes to help build infrastructure that gets water, power and roads to his people.

“In the Navajo sense, our traditions are our culture hold us close to our families,” he said. “I think I can make a difference being that one engineer on the reservation.”

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Sterling Scholar program’s impressive legacy