Almost five years ago, 12 students in San Vicente Elementary School’s Young Farmers Program participated in a workshop on how to develop a community project, which resulted in the funding of Project Traditional Technology for three years by The Administration for Native Americans for just under half a million dollars.
The training taught the students how to use a tree diagram to identify an issue (the trunk), the causes or reasons for the issue (roots), and the effects on the community because of the issue (leaves). The issues the students came up with were: 1, need for a swimming pool; 2, need for more playground equipment; 3, need for a cover for the basketball court; and 4, the need for laptop computers.
The students voted for the laptop issue as the most important. The students’ tree drawings for the laptops identified the cause for not having enough laptops: poor economy, all the laptops went to upper grade students, and an overall lack of resources to purchase laptops for elementary schools. The students put together a presentation that they presented to the Student Council and to the PTA for the purpose of getting support for student laptops for classrooms.
The PTA had some interesting feedback. Many parents and grandparents felt that a lack of technology was not a problem; that in fact, technology was a problem. They pointed out that families no longer eat together because students need to go to hotspots to do their homework. When the families do eat together, it is often interrupted by phone calls, responding to Facebook, and chats. Many seniors are frustrated that they cannot communicate with their grandchildren in their native language, and they are not comfortable communicating using Facebook, text, or chats.
The funded version of Project Traditional Technology meets the needs of both groups. The elementary students will get extra technology, and with that technology they will record their elders’ stories. The technology will also be used to research family trees. The overall purpose of Project Traditional Technology is to increase intergenerational communication.
The original group of Young Farmers met with Susan White to receive a plaque in recognition of their efforts toward the project’s funding. In the recognition ceremony, White told the students that they were making history as this is the first project funded by ANA that was initiated by students. She also mentioned that ANA administrators in Washington, D.C. are talking about this project, and it is already receiving national attention. So even though these original students will not receive any direct benefits from the project, as it is an elementary school level project and they are now secondary students, they are the pioneers who are directly responsible for preserving stories and genealogies that would otherwise be lost at the passing of the elders. They are also responsible for the increased bonding between students and elders as the two spend time together sharing stories. This project has already spread to the U.S. mainland where an email came in with the subject line of “WOW.” The gist of the email from a mainland educator was that his students were a lot more emotional about writing stories about their relatives than the other writing assignments they had worked on. He also said his students are excited about a project to share their stories with CNMI students, and in return to read about stories from islander elders.
The 12 students who started the project are Iyssa Geronimo, Ciaralyn Apostol, Alvin Arcega, Emmanuel Cobacha, Anneli Arcega, Annika Matias, Maria Fleming, Davilyne Hocog, Taishondre Isamu, CJ Patris, Carlene Patris, and Salofi Welch. Also, included is Allan Arcega, who was in 1st grade at the time, and he hung around with his older brother and sister. (PR)