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OCU, Apple collaborate on tech initiative with Native American tribes

Oklahoma City University has partnered with Apple and the state’s three largest Native American tribes in an effort to bring computer coding education to Oklahoma communities traditionally underrepresented in technology, university leaders announced.

The partnership formally kicked off this week as educators working in schools within the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations arrived at Oklahoma City University (OCU) for a three-day computer coding teacher academy.

While the principal goal of the academy is to equip educators with knowledge and skills in computer coding that they can integrate into their classrooms, the overall partnership aims to serve broader purposes.

Its dual goals are to enable employment pathways for Native American youth and other young people who live within Oklahoma’s tribes, and to give educators and students the know-how to implement technology to help preserve tribal languages and cultures.

“From coding to more broad technical skills, we’re helping young people prepare for in-demand jobs while still honoring the heritage, language and traditions of the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations,” OCU President Kenneth Evans said. “As these programs expand, so too will their reach, enriching communities and preserving legacies for years to come.”

The partnership between OCU, Apple and the tribes is part of Apple’s Community Education Initiative, which launched in 2019 to bring coding, creativity, and career opportunities to learners of all ages. OCU is one of Apple’s newest partners in the initiative, which now has a presence in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

“This unique partnership with Oklahoma City University and the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations is rooted in our belief that education is a powerful force for equity and opportunity,” said Stacy Erb, director of Apple’s Community Education Initiative. “We’re thrilled to support these communities in achieving their goals while upholding their language, history, and culture — starting this week with the important work of equipping educators with new digital skills to empower the next generation.”

Since launching the Community Education Initiative, Apple has maintained a focus on supporting teachers and educators by providing cutting-edge professional learning opportunities in their communities, and expanding programming to dozens of new organizations from coast to coast.

Leaders from Oklahoma’s tribal nations said they look forward to the impact of the initiative, and the partnership, within their schools and communities.

“We’re so excited to be working in tandem with Apple and OCU to teach both our educators and students the skills they need to harness the power of technology for career opportunities and to help keep our language and traditions alive,” Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. “Ultimately my goal is that every Cherokee family will feel confident that they can send their kids to school and get a quality education, and then these young people will breathe new life back into our communities. It’s a beautiful cycle that will propel our future while honoring our past.”

This week’s teacher academy is the first in a series of initiatives involving OCU and the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations. Evans said the university aims to support the tribes specifically in language preservation efforts, as well as in uncovering new tactics for implementing technology to support employment opportunities and quality of life within the tribes.

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