Andrea Thomas, Diné educator and Navajo Nation Board of Education member, and her 3rd-5th grade students at Mesa Elementary in Shiprock, N.M. have been struggling to continue their lessons remotely amid the closure of schools on the Navajo Nation, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Motivation has not been a barrier for her, her students and their families – all are committed to continuing education during these difficult times. Rather, the lack of technology has been the biggest hurdle facing her students and many more on the Navajo Nation hoping to continue school from home.
A majority of Mesa Elementary students come from low income households and do not have access to a computer at home.
Thomas’ students have been completing
their lessons on family member cell phones, or taking screenshots of homework to finish later on paper. Thomas knew that doing full lessons on a cellphone wasn’t an ideal form of learning and would likely overwhelm her students and families quickly. For her students to effectively learn remotely she knew they would need laptops.
Thomas stepped into action and started a fundraiser to purchase 26 laptops for her students.
“There’s something really unique about my group of students,” Thomas said. “I knew that I had to do the best I could to support them.”
Her fundraiser received donations from community members, parents and families but was still a ways from reaching her fundraising goal.
In April, NB3 Foundation President and CEO, Justin Kii Huenemann came across her fundraiser which directly aligns with one of the goals of the NB3 Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund: to provide access to education opportunities and youth development.
The connection was made and through the generosity of the donors to the NB3 Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund, laptops were purchased for all the students in Thomas’ classroom.
When it comes to her students and their futures, Thomas said that when her students reflect on these times she hopes it’s a positive memory of their resilience and perseverance, like their Diné culture.
“On behalf of myself and my students I would like to express our sincere and immense gratitude to the NB3 Foundation for their inspiring generosity. As so many doors seem to be closing, this donation has kept open an invaluable access to continued learning and growth and, just as importantly to one another, to community, and to continuity that will keep our spirits strong, our minds engaged, and our sense of determination unswayed in this time of great challenge. Ahéhee”- Andrea Thomas