Closing the technology gap at Kinteel dormitory

Noel Lyn Smith
Students Patrick Lameman, left, a senior from Red Valley, Ariz., and Cheyenne Toledo, a freshman from Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle, talk about the new technology they will benefit from on Wednesday at the Kinteel Residential Campus Inc. in Aztec.

AZTEC — Native American students who reside at the Kinteel Residential Campus Inc. are among the first who will benefit from a partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior, Verizon and Microsoft.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the partnership will provide wireless tablets and high-speed Internet access to more than 1,000 Native American students in 10 dormitories funded by the Bureau of Indian Education.

She made the announcement Tuesday during a visit to the Winslow Residential Hall in Winslow, Ariz., which is also receiving the equipment and service.

The project is part of Generation Indigenous, an initiative President Barack Obama launched in 2014 to remove the barriers that stand between Native young people and their opportunities to succeed.

Residents watch a movie on Wednesday at the Kinteel Residential Campus Inc. in Aztec.

"Access to today's technology and wireless Internet are important parts of the equation as we work to assist tribal communities in providing students with a high-quality and culturally relevant education. I applaud Microsoft and Verizon for their commitment to remove education barriers for Native American students," Jewell said in a release from the Interior Department.

Jasper Joe, the home living supervisor at Kinteel, said the Microsoft tablets will be assigned to the 84 students who live in the dormitory, as well as to four staff members.

“I know it’s going to improve our students’ academic achievement,” Joe said in an interview Wednesday.

He added the tablets will help students, who attend Aztec High School, with homework and allow them to check their grades in Powerschool, the online school data system used by the Aztec Municipal School District.

With 12 computers available for students at Kinteel, the new tablets will make it easier to type papers and conduct online research.

For the staff, the tablets will allow them to monitor students’ progress, including grade point averages and class assignments.

“I’m appreciative of Verizon for helping us this way, so we can monitor our students in improving GPAs,” Joe said.

A tower for wireless broadband service has already been built on campus, and Joe said Internet service will not lag when students are using their tablets.

Verizon installed the enhanced network and will provide free wireless service for two years, according to the Interior Department release.

Students Kensai Lewis, left, a junior from Nageezi, and Kody King, a junior from Tohatchi, eat dinner on Wednesday at the Kinteel Residential Campus Inc. in Aztec.

The tablets are expected to arrive later in the month and will be distributed to students in December, Joe said.

“It will be a good Christmas present for them,” he said.

Patrick Lameman has been living at the dormitory since his freshman year.

“I think it’s a better way for us — students here at the dorm — to do better school work. …I would consider this a blessing,” Lameman said.

He added that for those completing dual-credit courses, it will improve communication between instructors and students.

As a senior, it will help him in keeping in contact with college admission counselors, Lameman said.

Cheyenne Toledo, a freshman, said she plans to use her tablet to check her grades, write essays for class and do research online.

"It's a good idea. It helps us do a lot of our school work," Toledo said.

Student Mariana Jo Hernandez, of Sheep Springs, looks up her class grades on Wednesday at the Kinteel Residential Campus Inc. in Aztec.

Other BIE dormitories to receive the equipment are the Blackfeet Dormitory in Browning, Mont.; the Chickasaw Children’s Village in Kingston, Okla.; the Eufaula Dormitory in Eufaula, Okla.; the Jicarilla Dormitory in Dulce; the KinLani Bordertown Dormitory in Flagstaff, Ariz.; the Richfield Residential Hall in Richfield, Utah; the Sicangu Owayawa Oti in Mission, S.D.; and the T’iisyaakin Residential Hall in Holbrook, Ariz.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.