The health and well-being of every Diné College student is of the highest priority in the midst of the COVID–19 pandemic ravaging the Navajo Nation. Diné College students, only months ago studying toward their degrees, are now struggling with continuing their education while trying to remain healthy and safe. The majority of students are first generation and ‘non-traditional’, meaning that they’re often slightly older adults with work experience or family situations that can sometimes make attending college full-time difficult, so stressors are multiplied in the many roles they fulfill as parent, caretaker, breadwinner, and even communicator to the outside world for their non-English speaking family members. The College, forced to close its doors last March for student safety, is using all creative means to continue student learning and engagement with their current courses, including moving the entire College to online instruction for the first time ever. The dedication of College faculty to push ahead against the formidable challenges of limited bandwidth and rural remoteness assumes that students are able to meet them half way – by logging on to class every day. This is not the case.
Recognizing the need, Diné College has already begun to purchase and distribute laptops and MiFi devices with data plans to students. But so much more is needed. Online learning, at a minimum, requires access to electricity, a computer with a camera, and the internet. A recent College survey found 86% of its students report they do not have access to the internet and 75% do not have access to a laptop or computer. We need your help to meet students where they are, keep them in school, and help them in this crisis.
The sacred Navajo homeland of red rock buttes and desert are also home to “deserts” of a man-made kind. Scarcity of fresh foods (only 13 grocery stores reservation wide), a shortage of housing (student homelessness and instability are on the rise), restricted access to medical care and medicine due to an insufficient number of clinics, hospitals and pharmacies (a dire situation during this pandemic), and an almost non-existent economic infrastructure (lack of businesses and jobs) are the harsh realities of students’ daily living in their local communities. During the school year, students find safe housing, food, child care, campus jobs, study space, internet access, computer labs, tutoring, counseling, ceremony and community at Diné College’s campuses and sites. With this stable foundation pulled out from beneath our students, they now find themselves vulnerable, in distress, and asking for our help. We urge you to support us!
For the past 52 years Diné College has been preparing Navajo students through Navajo and Western education. Our students learn that pride, self-confidence and resilience comes from a strong positive Navajo identity. Now more than ever, that resilience is needed to weather this global pandemic. What began as a health emergency is now an education emergency - unless we act now! We cannot lose the next generation of academics and leaders due to this pandemic. Your donation shows our students that their sacrifices have been worth it.
Give to the ‘Warrior Protection Fund’ that will help students with emergency needs of living and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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- Duley Crabbe
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