In this day and age, technology is everywhere. For some people, it's everything.
Most Americans are dependent on multimedia devices to stay connected with the rest of the world. However, this is not a luxury afforded to everyone, particularly in the Lake Region, where a recent phone survey indicated that nearly 30 percent of Fort Totten residents are without computer access.
This poses a problem in the modern age, a period in which multimedia devices are becoming more and more involved in the education process. Those without basic devices, like a computer, are being left behind.
Well, not if Drs. Dave and Jo-Anne Yearwood have anything to say about it.
The Yearwoods, both of whom are instructors at the University of North Dakota, are founding members of the "Jewel and Randolph Yearwood Technology Foundation," a charitable organization aimed at providing students and educators with access to technological tools of the 21st century, and they are here to enhance the educational opportunities in North Dakota and abroad.
"People contact us, we have some initial conversation, and I tell them to put in a request," said Dr. Dave Yearwood, who is a professor and chair of the technology department at UND. "Then Jo-Anne and I bring that request to the board for approval, and after that, we respond to the people who have made the request and let them know that they've been approved."
And that reason is precisely why the Yearwoods were in Devils Lake on Wednesday evening: to donate computers to those in need of them, and to train them in how to properly use the devices.
The Foundation receives its inventory from Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which intercepts outdated computer models and donates them to the Yearwoods, who take them, ensure that they are still operational and offers them to those without adequate access to today's technologies.
The Yearwoods inherited their passion for assisting others at an early age.
Dave and Jo-Anne are both from the Caribbean, and both of them came to the United States with their parents in order to receive the best education available to them. Dave's family was particularly poor, according to him, but despite his parents' financial shortcomings, one of their primary goals was to ensure that their son get the most plentiful education possible.
This is the reason why he does what he does today. It's the reason why the foundation he and his wife founded is named after his parents (Jewel and Randolph.)
Both Dave and Jo-Anne exhibit a passion for helping others in need, and on Wednesday night, their efforts were focused in Devils Lake, much to the delight of the Native American Educational Advisory Committee, which was present at the meeting to hear the Yearwoods' demonstration.
Page 2 of 2 - Both Dave and Jo-Anne had witnessed a presentation by the Native American Educational Advisory Committee regarding their technology plan, and Dave contacted the committee with an interest in donating on behalf of his foundation.
"The committee has conducted surveys in the past, and many have identified that one problem we have is that some students don't have computer access outside of the school day," Devils Lake Superintendent Scott Privatsky said. "More and more, homework assignments require Internet access. We just want to make sure that more children have that access outside of the classroom."
This access is what some believe is a catalyst in the educational gaps we see between Native American students and the rest of the Lake Region.
"When I first got on board a couple of years ago, one thing I began to notice is that test scores at the elementary level were fairly even between native and non-native students, said Ermen Brown, registrar at Cikana Cankdeska Community College in Fort Totten. "At the middle school level, the gap starts to widen, and at the high school level, they widen even further.
"So one of the things we aim to do is to close that gap, and we want to be sure that our students are getting every educational opportunity available to them."
The Committee hasn't made a formal request to the foundation quite yet, but they hope to have developed a specific needs assessment by their next meeting, which will be on Tuesday, Oct. 15, and at that point, discussion will begin regarding the submission of a formal request to the Yearwoods.