Native American Code Writers Program

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SFAZ Native American Code Writers Program

The Native American Code Writers program (NACWP) was initiated and funded by the Arizona Legislature in April 2016 and renewed in April 2018. The Arizona Department of Education (ADE)-Office of Indian Education and the Indian Education Advisory Council provide program oversight and support. Through a competitive RFP process, Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) was awarded funding for the facilitation of the program in 2017 through 2019.

The Native American Code Writers program targets Native American students and their teachers in order to teach Computer Science (CS) to 100 high school students yearly, across six reservations. The CS content is designed to help students think critically, problem-solve, and work with technology integration using app development, gaming, website design, multimedia, cybersecurity, and robotics.

The Native American Code Writers Program receives the support of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, in addition to the Arizona legislature. The SFAz focus on coding was led by its Board Chair (Don Budinger) and Vice-Chair (Craig Barrett) and strongly encouraged by founding Board Member, Computer Science Professor Anita Jones of the University of Virginia. The coding program was led by Linda Coyle, NACWP Education Director.

I wanted to know how to design games. Technology is everywhere so it would be cool to have a career in Computer Science.” Mariana Perteet, Student – Gila River Indian Community

Arizona Partner Schools

SFAz currently provides the NACWP to the following Native American tribal communities:

  1. The Salt River-Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) and Salt River High School (2017)
  2. The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation (FMYN) and Fountain Hills High School in the Fountain Hills Unified School District (2017)
  3. The Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) and Cesar Chavez High School in the Phoenix Union High School District (2017)
  4. Navajo Nation and Chinle High School in the Chinle Unified School District (2019)
  5. Navajo and Hopi Nation and Flagstaff High School in Flagstaff Unified School District (2019)
  6. Navajo Nation and Shonto Preparatory Academy in Shonto Prep Schools (2019)
  7. White Mountain Apache Tribe and Alchesay High School in the Whiteriver Unified School District  (2019)

Each NACWP partnering school is provided comprehensive, year-long computer science professional development through and funding for computer science equipment, robotics, and teacher/student travel. In addition, SFAz works extensively with school and district leaders to obtain approvals and establish processes to implement the program activities and new CS course offerings. Over the past three years, each of the schools has successfully begun the first of two year-long courses ( CS Discoveries- 9th grade and Advanced Placement CS Principles- 10th grade) and are poised to begin exploratory courses in fall 2019.  SFAz also provides the catalyst and program management for articulation between business and industry partners and the schools/tribes. Current industry partners include; GoDaddy, Amazon, Verizon, and Salt River Project. In addition, SFAz provides for a model for articulated pathways K-12 from the feeder elementary and middle schools, into the sponsored high schools and the local community colleges and universities.

Science Foundation Arizona is also instrumental in bringing Computer Science programming to a variety of other Native American schools through additional grants and programs. These programs include the Regional Partnership in which teachers from the following schools have also benefitted from extensive free computer science training:
  • Grey Hills Academy, Tuba City, Arizona
  • Chinle Middle School, Chinle, Arizona
  • Holbrook Middle School, Holbrook, Arizona
  • Monument Valley High School, Kayenta, Arizona
  • Ganado Middle School, Ganado, Arizona
Computer Science would help me feel like I’m a role model and am helping my community because there are not a lot of girls who code. People I know in my tribal community don’t think about computer science. I could make others aware of it and the jobs you can get. Marcella Perteet, Student – Gila River Indian Community

2018 Statistics

In 2016, 438 high school students in Arizona took the AP Computer Science exam, only one student was Native American ( 2017). In 2018, the NACWP teachers and students participated in the AP Computer Science Principles course for the first time. While the students completed the hands-on project portion of the AP exam, many did not complete the high-stakes multiple-choice portion. In August of this year, the NACWP has nearly 100 students enrolled in AP CS Principles across the program. The NACWP will include strategies for supporting student success in completing both sections of the AP assessment through mentoring support, online practice testing, and addressing cultural challenges associated with the lack of knowledge of, and experience with, high-stake Advanced Placement exams.


NACWP in Action!

I see computer science helping me personally throughout my life. If I need help with a hard task, I can get it done simpler and easier using a digital device. I can see how having an education in Computer Science will be very helpful for my community. I can revolutionize the old tradition and teach the new modern ways to our community. Angel Garnica, Student – Gila River Indian Community

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For additional information, please contact Science Foundation Arizona at

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