PULLMAN, Wash. — The video begins like a Star Wars movie, the text scrolling down the screen. But it is clear this is anything but a George Lucas flick as the music changes to alternative rock and the scene shifts to groups of teen-age Native Americans.
The slick video is one of several projects more than 50 students from tribes across the Northwest recently completed at a Washington State University camp designed to encourage them to consider careers in communication and engineering – two fields rarely pursued by Native Americans.
At NY’EE (Native Youth Exploring Engineering) camp, Native American 9th, 10th and 11th grade students from Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon came to WSU for five days to attend workshops that taught the basics of engineering and – for the first time – communication.
“The communication industry, including newspapers, needs a more diverse editorial workforce, and through this exposure, some students may develop an interest in a career in media,” said John Irby, assistant professor and head of the journalism degree program in the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication. Irby directed the communication component at the camp.
The students learned how to prepare newsletters, design Web pages and produce videos, and were taught newspaper and photography skills. In the engineering component, students built edible cars, tested the soundness of bridges and buildings they designed, and constructed teepees, among other activities. View the students’ Web sites at www.wsu.edu/~nyee.
The finished communication projects reflected the students’ unique perspectives, Irby said.
“In some ways I was surprised by the quality, but after spending time with the students and seeing their creativity, I was more excited than surprised,” he said. “They were very, very creative. They communicated their thoughts, their ideas, their culture, their hopes and dreams.”
Derren Patterson, a Pullman High School student, helped with video production. WSU English doctoral student Ty Inoue and recent WSU graduate Zach Miller assisted students with Web pages. Staff member Lisa Irby taught students the basics of producing a newsletter.
The camp was supported in part by grants raised by the School of Communication. Organizers are applying for grants to support the camp in coming years.