A reflection on the National Indian Education Convention and Trade Show by leaders of the Indigenous STEM in Afterschool Project
Imagine walking into a convention packed with people buzzing with excitement about education and culture, surrounded by ribbon skirts and an energy you cannot put into words. That’s what it felt like at the National Indian Education Convention and Trade Show. It was an event beyond bringing passionate individuals together. It was a community, determined to lift education to the highest standard for Indigenous youth.
The convention was a balanced recipe of ideas mixed with traditional wisdom and new ways of teaching. I attended workshops and breakout sessions where elders, teachers, leaders, and young people shared stories and strategies. We talked about preserving languages, teaching with cultural respect, and how to incorporate technology intentionally.
Traditionally we attend conferences with the intent to share and connect with other state networks and we did, but we came to Albuquerque with a different mindset. We had a goal…to listen and learn.
Beyond all the workshops and trade show stalls, what was most impactful was the sense of togetherness. Everyone felt like relatives, all working towards the same goal: giving the next generation the best education possible. It was beautiful to be surrounded by and witness to such a community in action! That energy carried over into a reception hosted by the 50-state network which briefly illustrated how networks bring culture-based STEM into the world of afterschool and youth development. Sometimes it takes traveling out of our bubbles to connect with the programs in our home states. Leaving the convention, I was overwhelmed with new knowledge and energized by the connections made. It was a reminder of our duty to keep fighting for better education for Indigenous youth.
The convention wasn’t just a gathering; it was a symbol of strength, wisdom, and unity within Indigenous communities. It showed that when we come together, amazing things can happen for education and culture.
Led by the South Dakota Afterschool Network, in partnership with STEM Next Opportunity Fund, the Indigenous STEM in Afterschool Project is creating a robust foundation for transformative out-of-school time STEM programming in Indigenous communities.
By creating a community of practice for statewide networks, the Indigenous STEM in Afterschool Project will serve as a collaborative hub to disseminate powerful resources, facilitate knowledge exchange, and foster innovative ideas to drive policy changes and elevate the role of afterschool STEM to yield a more equitable future for Indigenous youth.