By Kelsey Ryan
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Representatives from the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday announced an initial donation of $500,000 toward the local school district’s plan to provide laptop computers this year to all Joplin High School students.
The announcement regarding the district’s $2.7 million One-to-One Initiative was made at Joplin High School’s temporary 11th- and 12th-grade campus at Northpark Mall.
“When we saw the devastation (from the May 22 tornado) that took place, the ambassador (of United Arab Emirates) decided that we needed to do something as a country,” said Dana Al Marashi, head of the Heritage and Social Affairs Department for the United Arab Emirates Embassy. “He reached out to Joplin to figure out what we needed to do as far as contributing. We got in touch with the Joplin public schools in terms of helping with the One-to-One Initiative.”
Al Marashi said one of her colleagues came to Joplin 10 days after the tornado and spoke to school officials to start mobilizing the effort. The school district and the embassy also are in the early stages of creating cultural programming.
“We didn’t want it to just be a one-time donation,” she said. “We wanted it to be a pipeline to future programs.”
The embassy plans to send representatives again this fall to see how the One-to-One Initiative has worked for Joplin’s 2,200 high school students.
In addition to the initial $500,000 donation, United Arab Emirates will match all other donations to the effort up to an additional $500,000, for a total of $1 million to be contributed by the embassy.
The One-to-One Initiative is designed to allow every high school student to have a laptop and continuous curriculum as Joplin students transition to temporary schools and eventually permanent schools. The laptops will help integrate cooperative learning between different departments and will use software programs that replace traditional textbooks.
The funds will be used to offset the start-up costs for the program, said Superintendent C.J. Huff.
“We’re working hard with teachers to provide them with the resources and materials they need to be able to support 21st century classrooms starting on the first day of school,” he said. “We’re tying what the kids are doing with real-world applications.”
Allie Johnson, who will be a senior this year at Joplin High School, said she was amazed when she heard that every high school student would have a laptop.
“I think it’s going to be a great year,” Johnson said.
“Although the tornado was so bad, it’s brought great opportunities for the years to come. I’m glad I still get to be here to see the start of it. I was scared our senior year was just going to be cubicles in the mall. It shows how many people care about our education. I’m so grateful.”
Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the U.S., said in a statement: “The entire world was touched by the devastation caused in Joplin by the May 22 tornado. Given the scale of the disaster, including the destruction of the community’s only high school, we felt it was important to provide assistance.”
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.
At a glance
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES is located on the Persian Gulf and is the United States’ largest export market in the Arab world, according to the nation’s embassy. United Arab Emirates is a member of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the Arab League. The capital is Abu Dhabi. The oil-rich nation donated $100 million to relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina.