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Yurok Tribe, CR Partner To Bring New Classes To Klamath
by Will Houston - Eureka Times-Standard
The College of the Redwoods in partnership with the Yurok Tribe is now offering courses in Klamath. The college seeks to add more courses later this year if demand permits. Times-Standard file photo

For the first time, College of the Redwoods is offering classes in the Del Norte County town of Klamath after forming a partnership with the Yurok Tribe over the last several months.

Yurok Tribe Education Department Director Jim McQuillen said the college will now offer an early childhood education course as well as courses on career and college foundations, Native American studies, basic English and a GED course.

"They've been very good to reach out to us here at the Yurok Tribe and trying to serve these very remote locations," McQuillen said. "As the largest tribe in the state of California, we have great educational needs for our members, so we appreciate it."

The idea for the new courses started nearly four months ago when McQuillen received a phone call from College of the Redwoods President Keith Snow-Flamer, who eventually met with the tribe in Klamath to discuss their needs.

Snow-Flamer was unavailable for an interview Monday, but the college's Executive Director of College Advancement Marty Coelho said the college's mission has been to expand access to education to all people. The new Klamath classes were an opportunity to fulfill that objective.

McQuillen said the weekly Infant Toddler Care and Education course which began last week is especially important for the tribe's three Head Start facilities in Eureka, Klamath and Weitchpec, which work to prepare children for their public school education while also incorporating tribal language and culture into their curriculum. McQuillen said that federal law requires that employees of the Head Start programs be trained and qualified in early education and infant care, which he said the new course will help achieve.

College of the Redwoods Del Norte Center Director Rory Johnson said that the new courses in Klamath will also address the transportation issues many people in Klamath face.

"There is not a bus running between Klamath and Crescent City every 30 minutes," Johnson said. "The road itself has got its fair share of closures and bad weather can be pretty nasty. People coming driving home late at night, it's hard for them to do. We can't always be at all places at all times, but this was definitely an area where we could do more to bring education to the people in that community."

Johnson said they are planning to expand the program to address other specific focuses of the Klamath community, such as integrating more fisheries courses in anticipation of four Klamath River dams being removed in 2020.

The college is also looking to implement its "telepresence" technology to Klamath, which will allow residents to watch a live classroom lecture.

"It follows our instructors as well as our students, tracks their interactions as well as displaying our whiteboards and what is projected off of our instructors' computers," Coelho said. "This provides a very immersive experience for our students. As far as we know there is no other community college in California utilizing such a robust system."

The GED course is also important as McQuillen said tribal members have a higher than average high school drop out rate. McQuillen said the Native American studies class will also be helpful in educating nontribal members on the tribe's staff about tribal history, policy and cultural sensitivity. The course will also act as an introductory course for tribal members who have never taken a college course before, McQuillen said.

Courses are either held weekly or four days at the tribe's main office at 1190 Klamath Blvd. Instructors include College of the Redwoods Del Norte Center staff as well as a Klamath-based instructor who is teaching the GED course, according to McQuillen.

McQuillen said he encourages anyone who wants to weigh in on the program and what classes they would like to take to contact his office or College of the Redwoods.

"With the number of folks that have a called and talked about it and asked about it, I'm very hopeful that it could take off," he said. "It can only go up from here."

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