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Groups Pack 1,700 Kits For Students On Navajo Nation Affected By Pandemic

KAYENTA, Ariz. – Students in the Navajo Nation now have much-needed school supplies thanks to more than 150 donors across the country.

The team dropped off more than 1,700 education packs on Thursday.

Items such as pencils and paper aren’t the type of school supplies you’d normally stress over when it comes to your child’s education. But the pandemic has sent children across the country home and forced a new kind of learning, and those supplies don’t come easily in every part of the country.

“In these places we visit, some of these kids have to go to a hill just to sit there next to a sage brush on a sand dune to see if their little hot spot will work or to see if their cell phone can connect to their Chromebook, if they have one, to be able to see what their teacher is trying to tell them,” said Mylo Fowler, Native American community liaison.

Fowler grew up on the Navajo Reservation, which stretches from southern Utah into northern Arizona and extends into northwestern New Mexico.

Homes on the reservation don’t have running water or electricity, not to mention WiFi or lights to keep on after the sun sets.

“I did all my homework under a kerosene lamp … in front of my wood-burning stove in my house,” Fowler said. “So I fell behind in my grades, and that kept me from being able to participate in things like sports.”

“The hill is harder to climb, and this allows the kids to at least have a little bit of a jumpstart in that challenge we have,” he added.

On Thursday, the Heart of America, Swinerton Renewable Energy, Goal Zero and The Real Salt Lake Foundation headed to the Navajo Nation – and they didn’t go empty-handed.

“We’re packing 1,700 distance learning kits,” Fowler said. “One-hundred are going to stay here in Salt Lake City and the rest are going down to Kayenta, Arizona, which is just a little south of Utah on the Reservation.”

The kits include school and art supplies, grade-appropriate books, hand sanitizers, masks and wipes. They also include a solar lantern so kids can study after the sun goes down.

Students will also get STEM solar cars to put together.

“You just never know what domain a kid’s going to go through,” Fowler said. “With STEM activities, it allows them to be able to put a model solar car together and see the science behind how that is able to move in the middle of nowhere.”

He said even before the pandemic, education on the reservation was a struggle.

“The education gap that exists among the Navajo Nation really isn’t a sliver,” he noted. “It’s like the Grand Canyon, if you think about it.”

This is the sixth time the groups are taking kits to students on the Reservation, and Fowler said they’re already seeing a difference.

“With the pandemic, this is really helping the teachers and the students continue to learn,” he said. “We’re finding that some teachers have even developed curriculum around the (packets’ contents), which is really cool.”

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