Indigenous students discover STEM careers and next-gen tech with the help of a V Teamer

Malachi Hammonds invites high schoolers to D.C. to learn about and build robots

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When V Teamer Malachi Hammonds looks at the students attending the Discovering D.C. with Indigenous STEM camp, he sees himself and he also envisions the future generations of his community.

Hammonds is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and a global co-leader of Native Americans of Verizon, an employee resource group with more than 2,100 members. This summer, Hammonds and NAV helped coordinate a visit from Indigenous teens from small towns in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia to the nation’s capital to learn about cutting-edge tech and STEM opportunities. The teens were part of the weeklong Discovering D.C. with Indigenous STEM camp, funded by Lumbee Tribe's Project 3C, a federal grant initiative, in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Like the students, Hammonds was once wide-eyed about the possibilities beyond small-town life. “I can physically see myself in them,” says Hammonds, who works as part of the public sector sales directors team. “These individuals are coming from rural communities where they only know farm agriculture or trade jobs. We want to ensure they understand there’s life beyond the territory or reservation they live in.”

Students at the camp visited Verizon’s offices, where they spoke with employees about their careers during an “Ask Me Anything” session. During a tour of Verizon Technology and Policy Center, the young people learned about recent inventions and Danielle Boyer, an Ojibwe inventor, taught attendees how to build speedy, three-wheel robots that she designed.

It's important to bring technical education to Indigenous youths so that we have the power to uplift our own communities.

—Danielle Boyer, Founder of The STEAM Connection

“It's important to bring technical education to Indigenous youths so that we have the power to uplift our own communities — and we're able to create solutions for us, by us,” says Boyer, who also founded a tech nonprofit called The STEAM Connection.

Rylan Oxendine, a high school student who wants to develop electronic prosthetics, says camp was an amazing experience. “The week opened my eyes and broadened my horizons for different career paths,” explains Oxendine.

High school senior Tiana Conrad was surprised to meet so many people of Lumbee descent outside of North Carolina working in fields such as diplomatic security and telecommunications. “I didn't think all these Lumbee people could have the careers they have,” Conrad says. “That they made it here and have a big career is astonishing to me. It gives me hope for my future.”

Reflecting on his volunteer work at camp, Hammonds was emotional. “I’m gonna try not to cry, but it's really good to see the students engage and ask tough questions you’d never think they’d ask — it's really rewarding,” he says. “I’m glad that they got something out of it, I'm glad our employees got something out of it, and I got something out of it.”

Learn more about the Native Americans of Verizon employee resource group, which welcomes not just Indigenous people, but any employees who want to share their heritage and are interested in creating change.

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