Code Writers Education Initiative to Support STEM Education for Arizona’s Native Americans


Bill Harris

“As a nation and as Arizonans, we have long celebrated the noble heritage of Navajo Code Talkers. With the Code Writers Initiative, we are tying today’s generation very closely to this heritage and this past,” said William Harris, president and CEO of Science Foundation Arizona. “Just as their great-grandfathers were the game changers for the Allied Forces in World War II, this young generation of code writers can be the game changers for their generation.”

Gov. Ducey, Sen. McCain, State Sen. Begay honor Navajo Code Talkers, announce new initiative

 In 1942, Navajo Code Talkers deployed in the Pacific Theater confounded the enemy, creating a code that proved unbreakable and helping the Allied Forces bring about the end of World War II.  Today, on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and on Navajo Code Talker Day, Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz), Gov. Doug Ducey, Sen. John McCain and State Sen. Carlyle Begay (LD-7), together with founding partners Intel Corporation and Cisco Systems, announced the establishment of the Code Writers Education Initiative, bringing together business, philanthropy, education and government to create a technology-based education curriculum for Arizona’s Native Americans.

Created in concert with Intel Corporation and Cisco Systems, with participation from a number of partnering organizations, SFAz’s Code Writers Education Initiative will outfit partnering K-12 schools on the Navajo Nation with distance learning technology focused on introducing computer code writing curriculum from kindergarten through high school and community college, in addition to using engaging technology subjects like robotics and cyber security to attract and teach students about the exciting opportunities available through STEM careers.

“The Code Writers Education Initiative will blow away classroom walls and bring the world’s most sophisticated learning environment to the Navajo Nation,” said Science Foundation Arizona’s STEM Network Director Ken Quartermain, Jr. “By teaching this generation computational learning, we help unleash the power of these young minds, and allow them to transform their lives, their families and their communities.”

The education initiative is aimed at attracting and retaining more Native American youth to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects and eventual careers. Currently, the US is lagging in the number of STEM-trained individuals in the country’s workforce; this is just one of SFAz’s STEM education programs focused on preparing Arizona’s workforce to compete globally.

“Arizona has the third-highest Native American population in the country, so as companies look to expand and diversify their workforce to reflect community demographics, we want them to look to Arizona first,” said Governor Ducey. “This great initiative helps Native American students by giving them the training and computer programming skills they need to pursue technology-based careers, and it also helps companies as they continue to build a diverse and talented workforce.”

“Intel is pleased to support the Code Writers Initiative because we recognize the importance of continuing the Navajo Code Talkers’ legacy, and the need to provide students with quality education and technology access to reach their full potential,” said Barbara McAllister, deputy director of Intel’s Diversity in Technology Initiative. “We believe that filling the technology pipeline with diverse students is critical to fostering future innovators who will create the technology industries’ next products.”

Over the next three years, Intel will invest $250,000 per year in Chinle High School, Monument Valley High School and a third Navajo Nation high school, with which final agreements are being completed. Intel will work with SFAz to enhance computer science curriculum offerings and teacher professional development, increase student engagement and provide student-centered services such as hands-on support outside of school hours and summer bridge programs to minimize “summer brain drain.” Intel employees – several of whom attended participating schools – will also support this initiative through skills-based volunteering, tutoring and mentoring.

SFAz has garnered participation by a number of other organizations offering financial, infrastructure and equipment, technical and education support for the new program, including:

  • Navajo Nation
  • State of Arizona
  • Dine College
  • Dine Education
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Nova Corporation

“I would like to thank all of those who are making the Code Writers Initiative a reality, especially Science Foundation Arizona and the leaders of the Navajo Nation. Just as the Navajo Code Talkers proved instrumental to victory during World War II, the new generation of Code Writers will carry on the legacy and prove instrumental to the future prosperity of their communities,” said Senator Begay. “The Navajo Nation, like the rest of the country, needs more students educated in STEM careers. The Code Writers Initiative will help provide training for Navajo students in computer technology, which will attract businesses that require a highly skilled workforce.”


Posted in AZBio News.