Building HopeOn December 1, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
I felt like I made it, like I’m here, and I did my best. We all did. The White Mountain Apache Tribe– we’re 17,000+ members strong. We have 26 lakes and over 500 miles of rivers. Our culture is very interesting. It’s a beautiful area. It’s just it’s plagued with many things, but if you go outside, they have like lakes, streams, and everything. Just the scenery is real nice. There’s a lot of things that are pulling them in different directions from education. Most people stay on the reservation and never went to college, and us guys want to get a career. Who knows? I want to get a job at NASA. We are an hour and a half from civilization on one side, and then we’re 30 minutes from civilization on another side. It’s 1,000,000+ acres. A lot of these kids– they don’t leave the reservation. It’s almost like this imaginary fence. I’ve been there 9 years, and basketball has always been the #1 thing on the reservation. You know, basketball, 1 out of 100,000 might make a career out of it. I was born and raised here, and I actually went to middle school here. We are in a rural area, and you don’t really have a lot of input from the outside world, and that gave me a little bit more drive I guess, to discuss what’s a possibility for them outside of the reservation. I have to say, the first week of school this year was a shock to me. They were just all really excited, I think. Nobody really understood what robotics was. Bruce Goode brought in this robotics kit one time, says, “Hey, let’s let’s just start doing this a little bit.” And he said, “Yeah, we have a competition in December.” And this was October. We had very limited brains and controllers– things like that– and then we didn’t have any computers. I was just using my work tablet. And they won! They won their first tournament, so 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Fifth grade, he came over to our school, and he really got me into coding. I want to do computer science, or code. Robotics got me into it. It’s pretty great knowing I could create something, and it’d work. I had never thought that we would have that many kids cause this 60 kids out of a school this size is quite a large number. When I saw this, I was like, “I’ll try it and see. What the heck?” And once I did, I just fell in love with robotics. I was very nervous. I was shy. You could say that again! The Apaches, I guess, they’re a little bit more timid. And they come out of their shells cause it’s kind of part of the competition, you know. You can use that motivation to actually push them through a mental health problem or something that’s going on in a personal issue. It allows them to experience success. Whereas, a lot of these kids here on the reservation don’t have that opportunity very much. To me, teachers are angels. That’s alright. It’s just a little bit more work. Sometimes they are a stand-in parent, and they have a lot of roles. And we need to remember that and and be mindful of the sacrifice that they give and also be appreciative of their dedication to our children. Oh, snap! I’m going to get on a plane for the first time! Yeah, I’m pretty nervous. I haven’t been out of this reservation. The World Championships is huge, and it’s amazing to see all the students and all their hard work is paying off for them. I’m already getting the butterflies before I go on there, just talking about it. This year at the 2019 VEX Robotics World Championship, we have over 1600 teams from across the globe. There’s over 35,000 people that come to Louisville for this event. It really is what it’s called–Worlds. It really is. There’s all types of people from different countries. We mostly got teamed up with Chinese teams, so we had to use Google Translator. When we got in to Louisville after the Denver flight, they were watching the Southwest guy unload the robot. Oh, poor robots! When we opened it when we got here, it was just completely destroyed. So they rebuilt it. It’s not something I’m worrying about or anything. I just knew that they could do it. The parents and the community in general really supports it. They realize that this could be their future, if they want. They sent us here because they want to see us change. They want to see us inspire other people. It helps a lot, knowing that our community is supporting us. It gives us more confidence to do better Any Native American community, really, it’s really family-oriented, and it’s community-based. If there’s anything that I could express better that I’m not able to, you know, find the words for, is just Nekoda’s coaching style. It’s not focused on winning. It’s focused on providing an opportunity for hope and future. Even when they don’t do as well in the tournament, they always come back, and we always reflect on it. Coaches like Nekoda make our program what it is, and it’s very important that we recognize these coaches. And while I think every single coach out there is an Inspiration All Star, once in awhile, a coach rises above the norm. What Coach Nekoda has done in Arizona is amazing. He’s teaching them not only technical concepts and engineering, but he’s teaching them communication skills, problem solving skills, and he’s having a profound impact on these students. They see hope. They see good jobs in their future. This individual is one of the Canyon Day Junior High School’s behavioral health specialists. In a school that struggles academically, he strives to motivate students through robotics and STEM. It is an honor to recognize him as the Inspiration All Star, Nekoda Altaha It’s all on them really, if they want to pursue it, you know, but I just try to give them the exposure to what’s available. The future is going to be bright. I didn’t think that us Native Americans could go so far in life. I just want to be something, and I want to Not only for yourself, like for the younger kids, from my reservation, I want like so many of them to come here and feel like they made it. I look into their eyes, and I see faith; I see promise; I see hope. I see kids that have endured challenges, but they’re resilient. If you’re looking for inspiration or a reason why, you can look at the students that you want to help out and just find inspiration in them. Because you have to find the why. He’s very interested in these kids. So he relates to them, connects with them. It’s more than just a job for him. He just cares a lot about us, and he’s the one that took a chance with us. I don’t know where we’d be without him. And I can see the rapport that he has with the kids here. They love him. He’s just kind of like us. You know what I mean? He makes time for all of us. How do I put this? We’re like a one big family. Like we’re close. The hopes and dreams I have for these students is that they just continue their education, reach their goals and their dreams, and will continue to keep going up. Nekoda’s… it comes from his heart. Nekoda, I’m taking your job. I’m going to. Coach, I just want to say: Nekoda, thank you for being there for me for my personal issues and helping me through robotics, and making, you really like changed my my you just changed my life. I’m coming for that job too. No…! They want to take over. There’s a couple of them that say that, but I would rather them take on the world, you know. Congratulations, Nekoda, on getting that award. And you have inspired me in many ways. I just want to say: Thank you for always being there, and thank you for never leaving our side. He’s smart; he’s kind; and I couldn’t ask for a better coach. In our Apache language, we say “thank you,” “aheeiyeh,” and that is a sincere “thank you” from me.