In 2003, a partnership was born, bringing Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula (PGKP), Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD), Kachemak Bay Branch of the Kenai Peninsula College, fellow nonprofits, and tribal organizations together in a shared vision of improving educational outcomes for the district’s most rural and isolated communities.
Project GRAD has consistently continued to secure federal and state grant funding to enrich educational experiences for KPBSD students through academic coaching for students, instructional coaching for teachers, social-emotional learning support, postsecondary access, and enrollment, youth empowerment, career exploration, and leadership opportunities. Recent grant awards have allowed PGKP to extend its expertise and services into afterschool programming, providing enriching activities for elementary and middle school students in six small KPBSD schools. Foundational to the PGKP philosophy is creating positive relationships among all partners, and particularly between caring adults and youth, for nothing powerful ensues in the absence of this.
Before this effort, high school dropout rates in these villages rose to over 18%, graduation rates dipped below 75%, and enrollment in postsecondary education (PSE) was almost unheard of.
After years of focused effort, the positive generational shift in attitude toward the value of education, so key to the PGKP mission, is beginning to take root. Postsecondary enrollment is rising at state and private universities and vocational and technical institutes. Over $575,000 has been awarded to students in PGKP scholarships since 2007. PGKP supported youth have received degrees in diverse disciplines in both the humanities and sciences as well as many of the vocational trades so critical to the strength of Alaska and its communities. Students who were once supported as teens are now encouraging their own children’s education, contributing to a lasting dedication to learning and community enrichment.
And the work continues… the PGKP staff carries on the support of students through this pandemic and shifting economies to build on the strengths of our youth for a promising and compassionate future for all.