NACA is a small innovative school that integrates culture, wellness, language, community connectedness, family support, leadership preparedness, and college readiness into each child’s education. NACA believes in educating the whole student and takes a holistic approach to everything they do. They use a Wellness Wheel, an Indigenous tool, to explore concepts of identity; physical, social, community, and intellectual wellness; and personal development.
This profile was prepared when Native American Community Academy joined the Ashoka Partnership in 2015.
Kara is Navajo/Lakota and grew up in Albuquerque somewhat disconnected from her culture, language, and community. Kara experienced the impact of internalized racism and external negative stereotypes of Native people. Thankfully, Kara’s adopted parents were educators, grounded in values that positively shaped her worldview and development. Following their example, Kara pursued a career in education and began her career as a Special Education teacher. She earned a Master’s in Special Education and an Education Specialist degree in Educational Administration as a Danforth Scholar from the University of New Mexico, where she received the Zia Award for University of New Mexico alumni for distinguished service in the field of education.
Kara worked both in an affluent school in Marin County, CA, and a low-performing school in the Navajo Nation, which introduced her to the disparity of opportunities for kids of different backgrounds. She realized that Native American students overwhelmingly attended low-performing, under-resourced schools and underperformed in comparison to their peers, faced multiple risk factors, and often lacked a vision for their futures. For over a decade, Kara has been dedicated to doing whatever it takes to make academically excellent and culturally relevant schools a reality for Native students. As Principal of Newcomb Middle School in New Mexico, Kara worked with 250 Navajo students and seven reservation communities. She facilitated more than 50 community conversations that led to the founding of the Native American Community Academy (NACA) in 2006, and NACA-Inspired School Network (NISN) in 2014. Under her leadership, NACA has been recognized as a model for effective indigenous education by the New Mexico Indian Education Sub-Committee and has been invited by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to participate in national strategic reform for Indian education. Kara has been recognized as one of the “Best Emerging Social Entrepreneurs” in the country by President Obama, awarded a national Echoing Green Fellowship, and is a current Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow.