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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Program Caters to Ketchikan Native Students
by Danelle Landis - Ketchikan Daily News
KETCHIKAN, Alaska — Ketchikan's Native students have a new option for high school through Ketchikan Indian Community's Tribal Scholars program.

Tribal Scholars was set up as a facet of the Ketchikan School District, KIC Tribal Education Director Camille Booth said.

Twelve students are enrolled in the program, which started on Jan. 21. They meet at the KIC Southern Southeast Alaska Technical Education Center at 615 Stedman St. until noon, then are bused to Ketchikan High School for two traditional classes.

Students must be Alaska Native or Native American and also have attended at least one semester at Kayhi before requesting enrollment in the Tribal Scholars program, Booth said.

Sophomore Dorian Dundas, in class Tuesday morning, said she was intrigued by the new program when she heard about it.

"I thought it would be a new way to learn something and it would be an interesting way to do school," she said.

Sophomore Noelyn Trout said he was interested in enrolling because it was "something different"and he believed that the smaller class size would make it easier to learn. He also has taken advantage of the unique program structure to study math both in the mornings in Tribal Scholars and in the afternoons in a Kayhi algebra class. He also is in a Kayhi welding class.

The morning program is organic, highly individualized and flexible. Booth said she wanted to create a new path to help Native students, who as a group have a higher risk of dropping out of school.

Another student in the classroom Tuesday, junior David McLavey, said he and his brother, Adam McLavey, were "forced into" enrolling in the program by their parents who were alarmed by their poor grades. He said before he joined the program he was pretty fed up with school on the whole.

He said he has been impressed by the individualized attention each student receives in the Tribal Scholars program, however.

"It was better than I was expecting," he said.

Two teachers work for the program, David Mitchel and Kathleen Yarr.

Tribal Scholars was funded by a federal Alaska Native Education Program grant, Booth said. It expires in 2015, but is renewable with documented success. She took the reins from previous director Cara Wallace, whom Booth said had been looking for a new grant for education programs. They discussed the problems in Native education that had been identified and decided to create an educational track that would address them.

"This has been cooking in the back of my head for the past 10 years," Booth said.

Booth previously worked as a principal and teacher on Prince of Wales Island for 16 years, and opened her dyslexia tutoring center in Ketchikan, Creative Resourcing, in 2010.

Booth said she and Wallace aimed to build a blended "school-within-a-school model."

They decided to build a school day in which students could relate to adults in a "very family, collaborative-type atmosphere" that would involve sharing and feature a less linear structure. Students also would be allowed to learn at their own rates.

Yarr said the program is controlled in large part by what the students need.

"We try to let the kids lead," Booth added.

Dundas and fellow students, senior Tiffany Howard, Daisha Obermiller and Rebecca Estrin, on Tuesday, pointed out a sign on the wall in the SSEATEC classroom with about a dozen classroom rules the students had created on their own. Among the more mundane rules was a quirky one requiring students to listen to music while working. Headphones were in evidence everywhere Tuesday, morning.

Another feature Booth and Wallace built into the Tribal Scholars program was time for activities that could connect students to the community, and give them a sense of their place in it. Mitchel described it as "very community-based" and "hands-on."

For a government class project, for instance, the students might be asked to interview the mayor or attend a governing body's meeting.

Dundas said that going on field trips the first week "was really cool."

A field trip the students took the first week was a visit to the library. Booth said that was one of the experiences teachers planned in order to increase students' feelings of belonging to the community and their confidence that they are in control of its amenities.

Junior Kathryn Carle said she especially enjoyed visiting the new library, which she hadn't used before.

"It was really nice," she said.

One recent morning, the student group traveled to Ward Lake to learn how to harvest devil's club.

Another benefit from experiential learning, Booth said, is that the students learn how they are connected to their environment, and what their competencies and strengths are.

A recent trip to the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center required students to watch a video about Ketchikan's history, Mitchel said. When they returned to the classroom and discussed their reactions to the video, some students mentioned that hearing about some parts of Native history and the impending loss of Native languages made them feel sad.

Mitchel said he set up solution-oriented tasks for them to demonstrate that they had the power to act, not to simply feel bad. He assigned them a writing piece to reflect on the movie.

Carle said she had watched that video in a Kayhi class previously on a "free day," but with no context or discussion. It was a different experience this time, in Tribal Scholars.

"It was more eye-opening," she said.

Booth said an outcome she hopes for is that such exercises will strengthen the leadership skills of Native youth.

Each student in the program is evaluated, interviewed and receives an individualized learning plan. Their progress is monitored so the plan can be modified as needed, Booth said.

Often, teachers in a traditional classroom focus on a one-way "input" model, where they present information and the students are expected to soak it up. In the Tribal Scholars program, teachers will check for understanding often.

Nationally normed tests are used in the program, as they are in traditional schools, and student plans are adjusted accordingly. The Test of Adult Basic Education, used by the GED program, is utilized in the program, also.

"It's a good means of knowing if your skills are up to par," Booth said.

They strive to connect what the students are learning to their college and work plans to help boost their motivation.

"Your learning is connected to something," Booth said they want to show students.

When students ask the question, "Why is writing important to me?" for example, the teachers will emphasize its importance in the real world. She said they have used the example of the group that has been working to have a skate park built, telling them that the people who wanted it never could have gotten people to listen and help if they hadn't been able to communicate their ideas well.

"That's what it's about," she said.

She said it also is important to teach them the actual process of learning, so they understand more about how they can progress as well as why.

The students had a ready-made space for them at the SSEATEC building, in the bright, roomy, well-laid-out area that Tribal Youth after-school program coordinator Sonya Skan had set up for her students. Tribal Scholars students fit right into the morning schedule, when the area previously was unused.

The room, divided into two spaces, features several Apple desktop computers, large work tables, big comfy couches and shelves stuffed with books.

The students' afternoon Kayhi classes are set up through the Fast Track online education program. Taking classes there helps students to continue to be a part of the larger high school community, to be involved in extracurricular activities and to attend dances, Booth said.

Sophomore Daisha Obermiller said her mother suggested that she enroll in the program, because she thought the individual attention would be a better choice. Obermiller said she, like McLavey, also has enjoyed the program more than she expected, although she still is skeptical that there will be enough socialization with only two classes at Kayhi.

Estrin said she has enjoyed spending less time at Kayhi because the people in Tribal Scholars are nicer.

"You can kind of just be yourself," she said.

Obermiller, Howard, Estrin and Dundas listed the advantages they already have come to appreciate: more field trips, using the bathroom whenever you need to, a more relaxed atmosphere, and a comfortable, cozy environment more "like home."

Eligible students "should try it," Howard said.

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Ketchikan Indian Community
Ketchikan Indian Community (KIC) is a federally recognized Indian Tribe, incorporated in 1940 under Section 16 of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, as amended for Alaska in 1936. KIC serves a membership of over 5,700 Alaska Native and American Indians through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Indian Health Service (IHS) programs. Eight-member Tribal Council, elected by the KIC membership, serves as the governing body and sets policy for programs and administration. KIC currently represents the largest Tribal membership in Southeast Alaska.

Southeast Alaska Discovery Center
The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center includes exhibits and interactive displays about the land, people, and culture of Southeast Alaska. Walk through the temperate rainforest, experience a native fish camp, view wildlife through a spotting scope, and much more.

Ketchikan High School
Ketchikan High School, often referred to as Kayhi, is the principal high school for the Southeast Alaska community of Ketchikan and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District. Kayhi offers a variety of vocational and Advanced Placement classes. It has an automotive program, a welding class, a large maritime program, Vocational Medical Terminology, and offers AP opportunities in English, science, mathematics, and history.

Tribal Scholars Program
Funded through Indian Education, Ketchikan Indian Community and the Ketchikan School District are partnering in a new academic initiative, the Tribal Scholars Program (TSP). All TSP courses are taught by Alaska-certificated District faculty and are located at KIC’s SSEATEC building at 615 Stedman Street. The TSP is for students who thrive in a dynamic, community-focused learning environment, and fills an educational gap for high school-aged students.

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