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General Electric Elfuns, Road Scholar Continue Tradition
of Service With Program in Utah

Ten-plus-year relationship goes on as Elfun volunteers head to Monument Valley High in the Navajo Reservation to work with — and learn from — students.

For more than 10 years, GE Elfuns have participated in Road Scholar Service Learning programs. Their involvement has included work on the Battleship USS Missouri, Ike and Mamie Eisenhower's Gettysburg Farm, the Sacajawea Center in Idaho and most recently with the wild ponies at Assateague Island, to name but a few.

This past March, 15 Elfuns from across the country participated in a rewarding and enriching service program in Utah, Monument Valley Tutoring: Grades 7-12 (program #6272). At its heart, every Road Scholar adventure is about educating the participants, and the Elfuns’ program was no exception. Working side-by-side with 244 Navajo teens at Utah’s Monument Valley High School (MVHS) — situated within the Navajo Reservation and surrounded by one of North America’s most enigmatic landscapes — the Elfuns found themselves acting as both teachers and students, learning from these young people even as they imparted their own knowledge and experience to them.

Central to the program was an exhaustive survey of every student, grades 7–12, at MVHS, posing detailed questions about the family life and day-to-day experience of Navajo teens, as well as about the influence of Navajo and Anglo culture on their lives and aspirations.

The Elfuns assisted the students on programs outside the classroom, learning skills from them and from the Navajo elders who come to school to teach weaving and other traditional skills. On the plot of school property dedicated to raising food, Elfuns helped prune apple, peach and apricot trees that will bear fruit that, along with other produce, will be sold at harvest to the community to raise funds for the school.

March is lambing season, and the high school’s flock of sheep produced seven new lambs during the course of the program. One Elfun got particularly hands-on by assisting a sheep in labor. Impressive to be sure, though the participants agree that the memory that stands out is the competence of the students, who manage the care of all the animals, building their shelters and even providing all of their medical care, from giving shots to clipping umbilical cords and trimming hooves.

The Elfuns put their own knowledge to use in several key areas at MVHS. A mechanical engineer from GE Nuclear spoke to concerned students about the nuclear dangers in Japan, while a GE network engineer turned idle digital video equipment into usable educational resources. The participants contributed to the construction of a traditional Navajo octagon house, continuing work by a previous crew and leveling the floor so that the octagon can be completed this summer, at which time one of the elders will move in.

Other projects included creating quilts for donation to local elders, cataloging books in the school library and clearing trash from an eight-mile section of highway amid the beautiful red rock of Monument Valley.

Other Road Scholar Service Programs With GE Elfuns in 2011
Program #2637, Habitat Restoration on Assateague Island | Chincoteague, Va. | Apr 10–15
Program #19543, National Smokejumper Center Service Project at West Yellowstone | West Yellowstone, Mont. | May 19–25
Program #19926, ELFUN Charter — Canterbury | Canterbury, England | May 21–28
Program #14811, ELFUN — Preservation and Renovation of a Classic Old Vermont Summer Camp | Fairlee, Vt. | Jun 12–17
Program #2617, All Hands on Deck: Maintaining the USS Missouri (The Mighty Mo) in Pearl Harbor | Honolulu, Hawaii | Aug 27–Sep 3
Program #17519, Service Learning: Chippin' in at Chippokes, Surry, VA | Williamsburg, Va. | Sep 11–16