My next two blogs will be a two parter, focused on on how the Digital Inclusion Pilot in New Mexico is using outreach to amplify homegrown Digital Inclusion champions.
I’d like to shine a community spotlight on two individuals here in Albuquerque who exemplify digital inclusion in every way. Rachel Thomas and Steven Lamb are both teachers at Zuni elementary and both engaged in a passion project to translate an interactive human anatomy app into the Dine’ language. They are not getting paid for this work (though they should be!) and are often constrained in their time, but nevertheless they press on, slowly sourcing words to preserve the Navajo language. This app can be used as a tool by educators to show students in a hands on digital way how the human body is constructed, and how it responds to stimulus (seriously, I got a chance to play with this thing and it’s very, very fun).
Rachel Thomas in a phone conversation told me how her grandfather attended an infamous Navajo Boarding school, where he was told that the language that he spoke at home was filthy, akin to foul language. It’s hard to grasp how far we still have let to go to right this wrong as a nation, but this distance can be breached by individuals like Rachel Thomas and Steven Lamb who saw one of those beautiful intersections of STEM learning and language preservation and didn’t hesitate to start making a difference.
Second I’d like to remember our past work with Chelsea Chee and Natives in STEM. Previously in the Digital Inclusion Pilot I was able to involve Chelsea Chee to attend an event in Shiprock at the Senator John Pinto Library where she invited John and Chelston Bailon to speak in front of curious college students, drawn in by hands on science activities and strategically placed chip bags. John and Cheston shared their journey from young men in the military, to working at the Sandia National Labs, to now starting their own business authenticating Navajo Jewelry sold online (where a staggering number of pieces sold are inauthentic). This is the mission of Natives in STEM, to show young people members of the STEM community who look like them, and allowing them the opportunity to interact with those individuals.
For my next post I’d like to look at STEM outreach as an amplification of voice for current Digital Inclusion activities in New Mexico. For now I’d like to thank you for reading!