Cross-posted from the Department of Interior blog.
No matter who you are, where you grew up or what you want to do, we all know digital skills and connectivity are crucial for success in today’s job market.
And so, as part of the Obama Administration’s Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative to invest in opportunities for Native youth success and the President’s ConnectED initiative to provide access to digital learning and education technology resources, Interior is moving forward with a public-private partnership between the Department and Verizon to provide more than 1,000 Native American students nationwide with improved access to digital technology in their classrooms and dorms. The President announced this ConnectED commitment in his visit to Standing Rock last year, and it delivers on a recommendation from the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) Blueprint for Reform that Interior invest in educational technology for its schools.
By early next year, thanks to this new partnership, 10 dormitories funded by the BIE will have high-speed wireless Internet and Microsoft Nokia tablets, enabling students to use vital tools for learning 24/7.
According to a recent White House report, Native youth have the lowest high school graduation rate of students across all schools. Forward-thinking solutions like this partnership are critical if we’re going to change those numbers for the better. Improved access to technology helps meet some of the critical educational needs for Native students while empowering tribal communities to provide high quality, academically rigorous and culturally relevant education to their students.
On their tablets, students can access educational apps for STEM — or science, technology, engineering and math subjects — as well as programs that can preserve and strengthen their tribal identity and cultures. Verizon is also providing free wireless data to students for two years, which includes data use on the educational tablets donated by the Microsoft Corporation. And through a partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America in Indian Country, Verizon is hosting two years of free digital training, services and support for students — as well as teachers and dormitory staff.
In a few weeks, I’ll visit the Winslow dormitory on the Navajo Nation to see firsthand how these new digital tools are helping students learn and achieve their educational goals inside and outside the classroom. Through new investments, increased engagement, multiple partnerships, and a culturally appropriate approach, we’re working to ensure that Native youth have the tools they need to reach their full potential.
Sally Jewell is U.S. Secretary of the Interior.