2 Oaks students use VR to participate in YOUNGA Forum
Kayla Jumper is one of two students at Oaks Mission Schools who recently participated in a youth forum organized by the United Nations General Authority. COURTESY
Oaks Mission students and Cherokee Nation citizens Kayla Jumper and Makeile Smith on Sept. 30 took part in the YOUNGA Forum, a United Nations General Authority event seeking to involve youth voices in global decision making. COURTESY
OAKS – When “virtual reality” fully entered the lexicon in the 1990s, the public was excited, but some people thought the technology was still a bit clunky.
As digital capability has matured during the decades, VR has achieved liftoff and is soaring, with students contemplating careers in the field or use of the technology to augment their work in other professions.
Among them are a pair of Oaks Mission students and Cherokee Nation citizens, Kayla Jumper and Makeile Smith, who on Sept. 30 took part in the YOUNGA Forum, a United Nations General Authority event seeking to involve youth voices in global decision making. They participated with the guidance of Angelina Dayton, Ph.D., known internationally as “The VR Lady.”
“I go to talk about what me and Dr. Angelina are doing, and what is being done for students and schools,” Jumper said.
Jumper, 15 and a sophomore, wants to be a psychologist and utilize innovative VR techniques. She is on the Youth Advisory Council for Students in VR (studentsinvr.com), which is within the organization Educators in VR (educatorsinvr.com). She has interviewed Tom Furness III, Ph.D., commonly called the “Grandfather of VR,” on a weekly student-run talk show in AltSpaceVR. (altspacevr.com).
Furness took part in the YOUNGA Forum, in which Jumper was one of many students who had the chance to speak. The entire forum was “virtual” and used VR, not video conferencing.
“I’ve interviewed people on VR but never really been talked to like that,” Jumper said. “It was an eye-opening experience and really interesting. People got to talk for about 10 minutes. I got to say what I wanted to say and answer one or two questions.”
Smith, 14 and in eighth grade, attended as a student ambassador. She assists with Students in VR and wants to work in technology.
“I went and observed what they were doing,” Smith said. “I learned a lot about it. This was my second time (to attend YOUNGA), and I’ve attended about three other VR events.”
Smith and Jumper each credit Dayton for nurturing their interest in VR, with Smith saying she had a previous interest in the technology and is “finally able to do VR with Dr. Dayton’s help.” Jumper said Dayton “opened a door.” Both first met Dayton when she visited the Oaks Mission schools.
Dayton is an educational and workplace consultant for VR technologies, and founder of Students in VR. She was previously the coordinator of academic services as Northeastern State University-Broken Arrow. Prior to working for NSU, she was an anthropological researcher studying “the transmission of traditional cultural practices across generations within native communities in various stages of revitalization.”
“I work with other organizations to bring VR into classrooms and homes, especially now that so much learning is in the home instead of school due to COVID,” Dayton said. “When I was working at (Oaks) school, I identified Kayla and Makeile and asked if they wanted to participate. I really wanted to support young Indigenous women for the UN event.”
Dayton’s daughter, Chloe Dayton, is a CN citizen who uses VR technology to teach the Cherokee language.
Smith and Jumper each said they are proud to represent Native American girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields such as VR.
“I think (my heritage) has had an influence,” Smith said. “Also, we recently reached out to a bunch of families within the Cherokee community for VR headsets and showed a bunch of other people how VR can be used.”
Jumper said it was “not exactly easy” to explain the role her Cherokee heritage has played.
“But it’s made me a little more ambitious and proud,” she said. “Doing this, I tell my ancestors that I’ll make you proud of my story, whatever I do.”