Above and Beyond: Navajo queen always smiling

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By Don Pace

Miss Ramah Navajo Queen Vanessa Frank has reached out to youth, helped elders and ridden in many parades representing her Native American community of Pine Hill, N.M.

“My platform was to reach out and tell kids that education is the key to life. There’s no such thing as can’t — everything is possible if you’re determined to do it, and you don’t give up,” Frank said. 

Frank said she loves her grandfather Albert Joe Frank, a medicine man at Pine Hill Reservation.

“It’s my grandfather I miss the most. I can tell you that. I don’t know what I would do without him — he has always been there teaching me everything about the Navajo culture. Even now when I call home, he’s at a sacred ceremony or helping someone heal. He has taught me about what a Navajo person is,” Frank said.

Frank said the thing she likes the most is helping people — she says her second favorite thing is smiling.

“I like smiling. People are always, ’Why are you always smiling?’ And I say, ‘Is that a bad thing?’” Frank said.

Frank is a junior at Highlands University studying criminal justice. She is also finishing her year’s reign as Highlands University’s Native American Queen.

Frank was Miss Ramah Navajo from 2007-08, but had to turn over the title when she entered the Highlands pageant.

“I didn’t really want to give up my reign as Miss Ramah Navajo, but everything is a life experience. As Miss NMHU, I got to meet a lot of good and great people. I got to know the Las Vegas community very well, I got to travel to the New Mexico state fair parade, and I was invited to some high schools and conferences,” Frank said.

Frank graduated with honors from Pine Hill High School. But like most college freshmen, she was a little lost and scared to move on to a new and far-away place.

“To tell you the truth, when I first came to Las Vegas I was ‘OMG, I’m far from home.’ I didn’t know anyone, but I knew I had to get out of my shell, and take the next step in my life. I met people through my job, Antonia Garduño, is like my Las Vegas grandma. She is a great one. She taught me a lot about respect — about the community. It is different from my culture, but I like it,” Frank said.

Frank said one of her passions that has been a platform in her Miss Ramah Navajo and NMHU Native American Queen reign is encouraging youth to take advantage of available opportunities.

“There’s a lot of kids on the reservation who don’t finish high school, and  think college is too expensive, but there are scholarships out there for Native Americans and others. As a U.S. citizen, that’s not an excuse for not going to college,” Frank said.

Frank said many kids around the state want to go to a big university that may seem exciting, but unfortunately get caught up in too much excitement or become just a number.

“Just compare Highlands with the University of New Mexico. UNM is 300 kids in a classroom. What I like about Highlands is it is one on one with the professor. At the most, we have 30 students in a class, tutoring opportunities, and so many other resources.”  

After graduation, Frank wants to be a juvenile probation officer.

“I want to help kids who need help. I won’t lie; I had friends in high school who were into alcohol and marijuana. I’ve seen it myself, and it’s something I want to change in my community. I want to show people who have problems that there are people who care about their lives,” Frank said.

Frank said her mom always teases her that she is full of surprises. She grew up riding and caring for horses. This year, she signed up for the rodeo team.

“I’m not the best rodeo person, but I’m learning from my teammates and especially from my coach Jon Peek. He’s always telling me to stay determined and never give up,” Frank said.

Frank’s list of things she likes to do is long.

“I love playing basketball and volleyball, I like to read. I like to write — that’s my favorite thing. I write in my journal everyday. I like to travel and see new places. During my mid and high school years, I was in student council and I was able to travel a lot,” Frank said.

Frank is the daughter of Ruby Frank-Hosteen and stepfather Eddie Hosteen, Her siblings are Creighton, Dustin and Shania.