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It took one Raven and one flatbed truck to supply one Indian reservation.
When freshman Calvert Tsosie found himself away from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, finishing school in Pinon, Arizona, in the Navajo Nation, he had a series of what looked like insurmountable obstacles.
But one by one he addressed them, and by the end, he was providing water and supplies to his entire reservation.
“Helping and serving others is the greatest blessing that anyone can give,” he said. “I think it brings a little bit of peace they (the Navajo on the reservation) are looking for. They are very happy to know that there is help on the way.”
Calvert came to Benedictine College last fall, one of the top wrestlers in Arizona, excited about the new opportunities that lay before him. Recruited for the wrestling program, he was part of the first conference championship wrestling tournament to ever be hosted on the Benedictine campus.
He was thoroughly enjoying his time at his new college home and was excited for Spring Break. Then it happened. COVID-19 hit.
Like nearly every colleges in America, Benedictine closed its residence halls and sent its students home, switching to online classes midway through the Spring Semester. Calvert returned to Arizona and started online classes, but he knew there would be trouble.
Despite living on the largest reservation in America, Calvert was challenged with the lack of running water and electricity. Internet and even cell service were inaccessible.
In addition, the Navajo Nation had been struck hard by the pandemic. By late April, the reservation had 2,141 positive coronavirus cases and 71 deaths, the third-highest infection rate in the country behind those of New York and New Jersey.
“The COVID-19 outbreak is very tragic in the Navajo reservation,” Calvert said. “Every day the number of deaths is increasing. The number of positive cases is increasing. It’s not getting any better. We have lost leaders, relatives, elders and now it is getting to the young. It has put fear in the hearts of families.”
So, Calvert got a friend’s flatbed truck and went to a wholesale store in Phoenix where he stocked up on cases of water and other supplies. He began making regular deliveries to the reservation.
“I can maybe make a trip once a week,” he said. “I am able to deliver canned food, water, paper towels, toilet paper and boxes of food.”
To fight the virus, Navajo authorities established a 57-hour curfew on weekends, lasting from Friday at 8 p.m. until Monday at 5 a.m., meaning residents are unable to go out to get supplies.
“There are weekend lockdowns where no one can leave at all,” Calvert said. “There can only be a certain amount of people in a store. No children under the age of 18 can be out. The restrictions are very tough. Residents are in fear. They can’t go anywhere anymore to try to get supplies or food for their families, so I decided to help.”
Calvert said the love and care he received from Benedictine College were crucial.
“The students, the professors, the staff, the board members, the community of Benedictine College helped me so much. They have shown me a lot of love and support and I thank God for all of them,” he said.
His Benedictine College professors give Calvert the credit.
“Calvert impressed me as one of the kindest and most loving students I have ever seen,” said Ed Crouse, Calvert’s U.S. History instructor at Benedictine. “He has a genuine concern for his fellow man and a pride in his heritage.”
Difficulty Going Online
Crouse first became aware of Calvert’s work when he learned the student was traveling dozens of miles to be able to turn in assignments and was having difficulty attending classes on the various online platforms.
“It was a struggle going to online classes,” Calvert said. “The Navajo Nation is a remote, desert area where you can’t just get a phone signal or any type of connection anywhere. You have to travel a very long distance just to get any type of signal.”
But, “At Benedictine College, they care about you,” Calvert added. “I was able to contact my professors and they did everything in their power to help me and provide me with all the right tools to get me through the semester. They were willing to work with me and to communicate with me throughout this troubling time. The college was even willing to let me move back to campus so I could complete my studies.”
But rather than return to Atchison for classes, Calvert moved to Phoenix with a relative. That allowed him to remain close to the rest of his family on the reservation.
Crouse, who also teaches at Atchison High School, happened to be the sponsor of a high school club called Interact, a community service club connected with the Atchison Community Rotary Club. The high school students immediately took action.
“They are collecting donations that will be sent to Calvert,” Crouse said. “He will then use those funds to provide water, food, medical supplies, etc. to his community on the reservation.”
To be a part of the relief effort, the public can send cash or checks payable to “Atchison High School – Interact Club” to Atchison High School, 1500 West Riley, Atchison, KS 66002 or to the Atchison Public School Board Office, 626 Commercial St., Atchison, KS 66002.
Calvert is grateful for any donations, but he is most grateful for the Benedictine spirit he fell in love with while on campus.
“Benedictine College has taught me so much,” he said. “To be strong mentally, physically and spiritually. To lend a helping hand, to rise above great challenges that are thrown at us, and to never give up.”