Connecting Indigenous youth for brighter futures

By on November 24, 2015

From the first-ever film of a young woman’s grandmother creating a traditional Hopi basket, to a young man’s vision of what it means to honor and be proud of his cultural traditions, Native American students are weaving together digital and cultural learning thanks to an innovative public-private partnership between Verizon and the Department of the Interior.

At an event to celebrate the partnership, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell told a gymnasium full of students from northern Arizona, “If you’ve done all that in one month, imagine what you can do with your tablet over the next two years.”

Imagine.

That’s just what Verizon and the Interior are doing by connecting more than 1,000 Native American students at ten Bureau of Indian Education managed dormitories with high-speed wireless service, Microsoft tablets and digital programs to engage students in both STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects and their cultural heritage.

The initiative is part of Verizon's ongoing support of the Native American community and its commitment to President Obama’s ConnectED program.

“Mobile technology puts learning in kids’ hands, gives them the freedom to create, to problem solve and collaborate – critical skills for the digital future,” said Rose Kirk, chief corporate social responsibility officer at Verizon.

“We are pleased to provide Native American students with the access and tools to thrive.”

Secretary Jewell added, “Access to today’s technology and wireless Internet are important parts of the equation as we work to assist tribal communities in providing students with a high-quality and culturally-relevant education. I applaud Microsoft and Verizon for their commitment to remove education barriers for Native American students.” 

Wireless broadband connectivity

To ensure the dormitory students have access to broadband technology and the critical tools needed to build skills for the digital future, Verizon has installed enhanced network infrastructure at the dormitories.

Verizon is already providing wireless broadband connectivity at eight of the ten dormitory locations, and expects to complete the project in 2015.

Additionally, the company will provide two years of free wireless data service to the students living in:

  • Aztec Dormitory, Aztec, NM;
  • Blackfeet Dormitory, Browning MT;
  • Chickasaw Children’s Village, Kingston, OK;
  • Eufaula Dormitory, Eufaula, OK;
  • Jicarilla Dormitory, Dulce, NM;
  • Kinlani Bordertown Dormitory, Flagstaff, AZ;
  • Richfield Residential Hall, Richfield, UT;
  • Sicangu Owayawa Oti (Rosebud Dorm), Mission, SD;
  • Tiisyaatin Residential Hall (Holbrook Dormitory ), Holbrook, AZ;
  • Winslow Residential Hall, Winslow, AZ.

Tablets and training

In conjunction with Verizon, Microsoft is providing the students with wireless 10-inch Nokia Lumia 2520 tablets that run the Windows RT operating system – which will run on broadband service from Verizon at no cost for up to two years. Microsoft also donated two years of Office 365, which is the enabling technology that offers students the ability to collaborate, communicate and demonstrate flexibility in how they solve problems in order to thrive and achieve their goals. 

“Microsoft’s key mission is empowering every student to achieve more, and the primary motivation to partner with Verizon and the Bureau of Indian Education on such an incredible project,” said Microsoft Regional Vice President North America, Traci Jovanovic.

The students began receiving their wireless devices and training during the current 2015-2016 school year.

In addition, to enhance the learning experience and adoption of technology, Verizon partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) in conjunction with Boys & Girls Clubs of Indian Country to provide training and curriculum resources though a generous grant. The technology and resources will be used to preserve and uplift Native Cultures as each location chooses.

Verizon and BGCA are providing ongoing comprehensive solutions including software, services & support; learning and classroom management applications; and application development training, and math and language arts enrichment.

“We are fortunate and honored to partner with Verizon to bring access and resources to native youth on Native lands,” said Carla Knapp, National Director of Native Services for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “For more than two decades, BGCA has partnered with Native communities across the country. Partnerships like these help to strengthen and support these communities with such rich traditions, history and culture.”