From the Office of Indian Affairs, the Native Youth Community Project (NYCP) grant was awarded to EXCEL Alaska in the fall of 2017 in partnership with both the Yupiit School district and the Kuspuk School District. Focusing on sustainability in rural Alaska villages, the NYCP is programmed to strengthen college and career readiness, subsistence, workforce development, and culture. Each of the nine villages within those school districts is invited to form a working team of volunteers to coordinate monthly events supporting one of the four areas mentioned prior. Villages in the partner school districts have hosted meetings of their choice and have share subjects such as fish trap making, traditional sewing, driver’s license training, first aid/CPR training, and more. Each group is supported with $500 per month for supplies. In order to meet grant objectives, all community members are invited to attend and meetings can be held anywhere in the village.
Participants are asked to fill out a survey at the end of each event, and all are asked for their input for topics to be covered in the future. Pictures are taken at each event, along with a brief synopsis. EXCEL uses these data for reporting purposes. The volunteers who organize the event are entitled to a stipend for their efforts.
Additionally, teachers in partner districts are working with EXCEL to develop curriculum for high school-aged students with the express intent to help them work towards planning their careers. Students are encouraged to explore a variety of professions whether they would like to maintain their lifestyles in a village, or to move to a more urban setting. Students might seek jobs in the trades, military, or in the professional world.
The Native Youth Community Project has been a wonderful addition to EXCEL Alaska. It has facilitated a marvelous avenue to meet members of the warm communities of the Kuskokwim River and to learn more about their rich culture. Through this grant, we hope we can assist communities to maintain their culture and help build a diverse Alaskan workforce.