We offer student-centered programing through academic coaching, student-family support, and postsecondary support.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Alaska Native Education Program
Since 2005, the US. Department of Education Alaska Native Education Program (ANEP) grant has consistently and confidently awarded PGKP funding to enrich the educational experience for youth in four of the most rural communities in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. Academic and instructional coaching, social emotional learning and case management, postsecondary awareness and enrollment services have supported students, teachers, and families in the Alaska Native villages of Nanwalek, Port Graham, Tyonek, and Ninilchik.
Opportunities include on-site instructional and classroom support for teachers and support staff, one on one and small group academic support for students, youth development and social connections, and culturally-grounded leadership events. Academic coaches and counselors bring students out of their villages to experience youth empowerment events, visit postsecondary training institutions, explore careers related to their interests, and develop meaningful relationships with peers from other communities.
Given the difficulties in providing equitable educational opportunities to these isolated schools, three of which are accessible only by small plane or boat, PGKP has shown unfailing dedication. During the pre-pandemic years, coaches and counselors visited weekly to build on the strengths of youth and community connections. Those in-person experiences are what we all prefer; as educators and connectors of people, we feel most fulfilled when we are together. PGKP is not deterred; however, the PGKP staff is now leveraging its creativity and innovation to provide consistent support through virtual means to meet the goals of increasing academic achievement and high school graduation within four years.
We Impact Generational Change
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION Alaska Department of Education and Early Development
21st Century Community Learning Center Afterschool Programming
In 2018, PGKP received a five-year award to provide afterschool programming in the five small villages of Kachemak Selo, Nikolaevsk, Ninilchik, Razdolna, and Voznesenka. Four of these sites are home to Russian Old Believer populations, communities that maintain their Russian Orthodox traditions through language, dress, dietary observances, and religious calendars. After suffering persecution in their native Russia in the 1600s, these ancestors fled to lands where they could freely practice their religion. Communities have developed in Alaska, allowing them to prioritize these observances while raising their children in secluded communities. The fifth community of Ninilchik rests mid-way between the economic centers of Homer and Soldotna, a 45-minute drive away.
The 21st CCLC program is an enjoyable afterschool experience for children in grades 3-8 where they can connect with caring adults and increase their interest in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). In addition to these highly engaging explorations, students receive a nutritious snack, participate in physical activity, and learn mindfulness strategies for self-regulation, focus, and clarity. This 21st CCLC program, affectionately come to be known as STEAM Team, is a fun place where kids learn by doing. The staff encourages questions and curiosity, promotes learning through exploration, and expects that solutions to problems may take several trials. Respectful communication, team-building, gratitude, and laughter create the foundation for the program.
As in all of the PGKP programs, the experienced staff influences the outcomes of advancing academic achievement by continuously learning on their own. The COVID pandemic has required coaches to find the most innovative ways to incorporate new technology and virtual programming to connect with kids. For those families and children who do not have easy access to digital learning, coaches reach out in other ways. The most important thing for our STEAM Team coaches is to truly connect with children and their families, by whatever means is most effective, to provide authentic learning experiences. This is more important than ever during these uncertain times.
State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
In the fall of 2019, PGKP received grant funding to support afterschool programming for grades 5-8 in the three rural communities of Anchor Point, Ninilchik, and Voznesenka. Funded through the legalization of marijuana taxes, the primary goal of this program is to prevent youth from using marijuana. This afterschool program provides a safe, healthy, and exciting place for kids to gather, explore, play, connect, and learn, an important alternative to engaging in unsupervised and often high risk activities. Youth in this age group are seeking independence while experiencing years of extraordinary change; it is important for them to have supportive places to gather with their peers to develop their interests with the guidance of caring adults. They are often natural problem solvers, they love and NEED to laugh, and curiosity about the world is expanding as they gain greater insights as to their place within it.
This program, Creating Healthy Inclusive Learning Lifestyles (CHILL), is all about sharing the excitement of the world with energetic kids so that they can ask questions, seek answers, amplify their understanding, and connect authentically with adults. Academic coaches develop intriguing lessons in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM), share mindfulness strategies for managing frustrations and challenging emotions (who doesn’t need that?), play and exercise, and share a nutritious snack. Influenced by a successful and popular model used in Iceland to diminish a disturbing rate of substance misuse, PGKP developed a program whereby youth can participate in organized activities, build their protective factors, and become empowered to dismiss some of the dangerous temptations so plentiful in our world. Funding from the taxes levied on the recently legalized marijuana industry powers this prevention program.
All of us are making adjustments to our delivery model in response to COVID. We are all learning new ways to engage kids and support them in their learning and growth.
Kenai Peninsula Borough School District
Kenai Peninsula Native Youth Leadership Program (KPNYL)
A long-term partnership with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD) laid the foundation for PGKP to take on coordination of this powerful youth leadership program in 2014. Supported through federal Title VI funding, KPNYL students build pride in their Native American/Alaska Native cultures by engaging in various leadership activities linked to AK Cultural Standards. Students who fulfill the requirements earn .5 elective leadership credit towards graduation.
Activities and projects are designed to encourage personal growth and develop lifelong leadership skills. These are opportunities for youth to more deeply explore their spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being while building pride in their cultural traditions. Leadership skills enhance students’ personal, academic, extra-curricular, and tribal-community involvements. Native Youth Leaders honor their culture and are empowered in their diversity.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION Alaska Native Education Program
Resilience, Independence, Strength, and Education (RISE)
In September 2021, Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula was awarded an additional ANEP three-year grant from the US Dept. of Education. This project has four driving goals, focusing on the K-6 student population of Port Graham, Nanwalek, and Tyonek. Key components emphasize
increasing links between traditional Native wisdom and classroom learning,
building resiliency for students challenged by trauma and ACEs through research-based activities,
improving student mental health and wellness, and
improving academic proficiencies for students in reading, writing, and STEAM.
Beginning in kindergarten, Project RISE will assist Alaska Native students to connect with caring adults who recognize and cultivate their strengths and leadership skills while improving academics. A coaching and counseling team will collaborate to build critical foundations upon which the K-6 students can thrive.