For some it may be finding themselves, lost in the mountainous wilderness. For others it could be pleasure, simply sitting by a lake day dreaming. For even more it's business, making connections to last a lifetime.
For Aaron and I, our newest adventure was a mixture of all three. Our desire to bring STEM to Native American students through Lab29 led us across the country on a journey we could not have imagined even three months ago. Quite like a dream, we were given the opportunity to travel, to speak to what we love, to share with others who share our hearts, and to gain valuable resources and knowledge through their shared experiences.
To start our whirlwind adventure we flew into Denver from D.C. on a Wednesday night. Waking up to mountains in your face is not a bad way to start the day.
Day No. 1
We were pretty pumped! And maybe running a little late...(we lost track of time staring at those mountains...) That morning we made the drive from Denver to Longmont, CO to meet with Kyle Coulon, the Program and Development Officer for AISES in CO. Needless to say, Aaron and I were both a little bit nervous. Our meeting with Kyle was the first we've had for Lab29. But even the dog they had greet us was welcoming and kind. We discussed the ways our organizations can best work together to aid the students they serve. Aaron and I are looking forward to not only being able to observe one of their very successful summer camps, but to also attend their annual convention this September.
Day No. 2
Albuquerque, NM (let's be real, that's just fun to say)! From Albuquerque, we drove to Church Rock for the first meeting of the day with Dr. Benjamin Jones, Entrepreneurial Director, and Darrick Lee, student intern, at the Navajo Technical University’s Innovation Center in New Mexico. Darrick was wearing a “Math is hard. So is life. Get over it.” t-shirt and I knew right away we were in the right place talking with the right people. We absolutely loved sharing our program ideas with them and working to uncover how we can best serve their students by building a program to benefit their community. Walking away, Aaron and I knew our visions and ideas had just been born into reality. For the second meeting, we headed back to Albuquerque to meet with Charles, Founder, and Vanessa, Relations, from Cultivating Coders in NM. What Aaron and I appreciated most about Charles and Vanessa was their honest and open outlook about the challenges an organization can face when running a program like theirs (www.cultivatecoders.com). While they shed light on the difficulties we may face, Vanessa, who is Native American, was very happy to see what we are setting out to do and told us to, “dream as big as possible on this project." Cultivating Coders started off as a dream, and has been overwhelmed by the response. We are confident we can do the same.
Day no. 3
On our third and final day, we met with Benelda Cohoe-Belone from the Pinehill Wellness Center in New Mexico. Josie Raphaelito from the Center for Native American Youth connected us and arranged for us to present our program proposal. We met her at the all equalizing Starbucks, and beyond presenting simply our mission statement, we also discussed the full Lab29 agenda for the summer. After explaining our desire to run test camps across the United States, she instantly offered Pinehill High School as a site to run a three day beta camp. Knowing we will face many barriers in the future, our meeting with Benelda was incredibly encouraging. Her mantra: "what will you need from us?" With hearts like hers, Lab29 doesn't have any option but to thrive. Invaluable. The only word I can use to describe the past three days. I want to give my biggest thanks to the organizations and kind humans who welcomed and hosted us without a second thought. Moving forward, Aaron and I are ready for the next step and looking back we realized the true purpose of this adventure was preparation. Lab29 -- we are ready to dream as big as possible.