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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Reservation Youth Demonstrate And Share STEM Knowledge
by Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation Tribal Tribune
Governor Jay Inslee stands with Linda McLean, Ralph Rise, Eddie Cohen, MMixat Vargas-Thomas, Taylor Vargas-Thomas and Pete Palmer. (courtesy photo)

REDMOND – Students from the Nespelem School participated in the Governor’s Summit on Career Connected Learning. This event was hosted at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, WA, on the Microsoft Campus. It was also simultaneously broadcast across Washington State for viewing at 26 remote sites.

To prepare for a presentation at the Governor’s Summit, this group of students met daily, in an afterschool setting. They have been working with EV 3 Lego Robots, learning coding, adding sensors and lessons with the Mars Space Challenge. There are anywhere from eight to thirteen students participating in this group on any given evening. This group has also explored rockets and electricity. To enhance the development of technical skills, the students learned how to create vinyl t-shirt transfers. This project has exposed them to the use and operation of specialized equipment including computer software, vinyl cutters and heat presses. As these students are elementary and middle school ages, Nespelem School represented the youngest group actively participating in Learning Labs for the Governor’s Summit.

To open their presentation at the Summit, Eddie Cohen, MMixat and Taylor Vargas-Thomas introduced themselves in their Native Language. MMixat & Taylor demonstrated Native Dance, then all three students provided an overview of their participation in the Career Connected Learning program. The adults, Ralph Rise, with Nespelem School, Dan Simpson, with Nespelem Valley Electric and Linda McLean, Director of WSU Colville Reservation Extension, also provided an overview of their programs’ contributions to this STEM outreach effort. Eddie and MMixat were also able to participate in a youth panel during the general session, to answer questions about what they have learned or experienced through their participation in their respective programs.

An interesting highlight of this experience was the fact that Governor Jay Inslee took time to visit with the Nespelem Group. The students were able to answer questions and presented the Governor with t-shirts they had created and button pins with the word “Make the Best Better” written in Salish. “Make the Best Better” is the motto for the 4-H Positive Youth Development Program.

Ralph Rise, Science Teacher with Nespelem School District, has been working in a collaborative effort with Nespelem Valley Electric, UW NASA Space Consortium and WSU Colville Reservation Extension 4-H OJJDP Mentoring Program, to encourage students to enhance their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills and to help them to make connections to future careers.

For information about 4-H or Extension outreach programs please contact the staff at the Colville Reservation WSU Extension Office at (509) 634-2304. Or you may contact the educators directly: Linda McLean, Director, at (509) 634-2305 or, Kayla Wells, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, at (509) 634-2306 or Or you may contact Okanogan County Extension at (509) 422-7245 or Ferry County Extension at (509) 775-5225 ext. 1116. WSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.


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