When we got into town both of us regained cell phone connection and immediately contacted Mrs. Denny to tell her we had finally reached Piñon. She guided us to a meeting place in front of the school and there with the help of her husband, Alvin, and their seven year old daughter, Kay, we began to unload the cargo.
This sign reassured us we didn’t unintentionally hit Nevada
The final leg of the trip was on a dirt road going to the Piñon School. After driving for a few minutes along the road, we came upon an unmarked intersection and began to doubt if we were heading in the right direction. We picked the fork that went east (that's what our map seemed to indicate) and continued onward, eventually spotting a house where we stopped to ask for directions from the locals – that was when I saw the poverty of the people living there.
Previously, I attempted to get at least a driving permit to help out with the driving, but preparing for the SAT and ACT tests took more of my time than I had expected. A family friend of ours, Patrick McGuire, was kind enough to drive me to the reservation. We used a relative's Honda Odyssey van - I can attest that that car model is very well-built. We took two days to get to the reservation. From Carson, California to Flagstaff, Arizona was a total of 527 miles (including stopping to see the London Bridge). Then, getting from Flagstaff to the reservation was another 126 miles. On the second day, we started bright and early. After several hours of driving, we found ourselves at the Navajo Reservation without any data connection. The deeper into the reservation we went, the lower the cell phone connection bars dropped. After two hours of driving towards Piñon, the pavement of the road stopped. We were faced with a dirt road stretching out to the horizon, GPS connection lost.
Not only am I Hispanic and African-American, but I am also part Native American (Tarahumara of Chihuahua State). Much of my cultural upbringing has been in the Hispanic and African-American community, so I decided to learn more about Native Americans. Turns out that they are the poorest demographic in America. I started by setting up the first Native American student organization in the Long Beach School District. Simply put, I decided to use that organization to help them out.
The first step was finding a Native American organization that needed extra school supplies. After contacting several non-profit organizations, clubs, and schools, I finally got a response from Matilda Denny of the Piñon School in the Navajo Nation, Arizona. The next step was gathering supplies to donate. I began by asking for supplies from people I knew and from my classmates at the California Academy of Mathematics and Science. The response was at first slow, but through broadening my audience by the end of the school year we had accumulated enough supplies to fill over 40 cardboard boxes. The Board members of Fors Humanitas, the 501-C3 on whose board I serve as student representative, were especially helpful, and I'm very grateful to them and our organization's supporters.
That box was heavy - and in 100+ degree heat!
The hydraulics weren't working so we had to use a stick to prop up the door
The house had a broken down car out on the dirt driveway, a large blue barrel for water, a makeshift dog shed, and even a clothesline (no drying machine) - all reminding me of similar housing situations I see during trips to Mexico. We walked up to the front door, knocked, and out came an elderly lady who spoke only Navajo. When we realized that she could only provide limited help, we thanked her, continuing on in the direction we thought was northeast. After ten more minutes, we came to another house with a resident who did understand English. He told us that the map we had was outdated; we were heading the wrong way. We backtracked, turned onto the correct road and as soon as we lost sight of any signs of life, the road deteriorated even further - it was like a washboard! For approximately the next 90 minutes, we bumped along at no more than ten miles an hour to make sure the car did not break down. Finally, we reached a main highway and saw the best sign we could ask for:
They seemed very pleased that we were giving supplies to their school and stated that it was lacking some of the simplest things such as world maps, markers, and reading materials. After many trips back and forth, all of the supplies were unloaded. We said our goodbyes, headed off to 4 Corners, the Petrified Forest and home!
Although, granted, someone there had a very good looking bike