Thanks to the vision of a faithful employee and his wife, the Equestrian Facilitated Learning program has helped Holbrook Indian School (HIS) students heal since its start in 2010. The rehabilitative program has blessed so many Native American students over the past decade. Program founder Fred Bruce is retiring when this school semester closes, so this will be his last year leading the horse program.
Fred was initially called to HIS to teach industrial arts. However, his passion and background with horses over the years would prove to be an additional asset in launching a program that would become a pillar of Holbrook Indian School’s mission to Native American youth.
With experience in auto mechanics and welding, Fred accepted the position of industrial arts teacher at HIS. With his wife Pam, Fred prepared to move to Arizona to accept his new role, but he had ideas about doing even more. “I told them that if I came, I would be interested in starting a horsemanship program,” he said. Soon after his arrival at HIS, Fred’s proposal to the school board was approved. The rest is history.
The next few years would involve building this program from the ground up, including finding all the necessary funding. Thankfully, wherever there is a noble vision to do God’s work, He supplies the need through the agent of His people. The church that Fred had attended in Chatsworth, Georgia, came to HIS on a mission trip and helped to build stalls and get things rolling. They also raised some money at their Vacation Bible School and provided materials.
Fred was able to utilize the industrial arts program to supplement the building of the horse program. “We had our construction class for industrial arts that year, and in that class the students helped build the horse arena,” he said. “The welding class built the metal gates for the arena, and they also made the top doors for the horse stalls.”
Pam Bruce’s role at HIS was just as instrumental. As the art teacher, she helped students master the indigenous art of pottery design beginning in 2012 until her retirement in 2014. For HIS alum Jerena Hunter, art played a big part in her personal growth at HIS. She started attending when there were no visual or graphic arts classes. It was during Jerena’s time there that Pam initiated the visual arts classes.
“We didn't have a lot of art supplies,” Pam said. “There were no art supplies other than pottery available to the students.” When Jerena came to register for classes the following year, she noticed a new drawing class and art supplies. It was a turning point for her.
“Jerena likes to draw,” Pam said. “It helps her express and process her feelings by doing art.”
As teachers at Holbrook Indian School, Fred and Pam have seen firsthand the challenges that many of our students carry with them. They have also seen many students grow through the horsemanship, industrial arts, and fine arts programs during their time at HIS. When asked if there were any students that stood out to him as showing noted growth and progress, Fred said that several came to mind.
“To mention one for industrial arts,” Fred said, “when Troy Dale first came, he read at a first-grade level, but he really liked the vocational classes. He took them all four of his years here. Now he does maintenance for a long-term care facility in Flagstaff.”
Besides teaching auto mechanics, woodworking, welding, construction, horsemanship, and maintaining the school’s vehicles, Fred also took time on weekends to give students rides in the arena or off campus. Pam continued to volunteer at the school after retirement.
The legacy of Fred and Pam will last beyond their time at HIS. They will be missed by the students and staff.
By Chevon Petgrave