- Associated Press - Sunday, April 20, 2014

SITKA, Alaska (AP) - Sitka Tribe of Alaska is one of 30 recipients of the 2014 W.K. Kellogg Foundation grants for family engagement projects, the foundation announced Thursday.

The STA grant is for $250,000 over three years for a project called “Wooch.een Yei Jigaxtoonei: Working Together to Increase Family Engagement.” STA’s application was among 1,000 received by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“With the goal of closing the academic and opportunity gap between Native and non-Native students, Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s ‘Wooch.een Yei Jigaxtoonei: Working Together’ project will engage Native parents and families in their children’s education through the development of community-based Tlingit language and culture-based programming,” the Kellogg news release said.

STA was among 30 organizations from 18 states to share in the $13.7 million in Kellogg grants.

STA Tribal Council Chairman Michael Baines said the council voted 6-0 at Wednesday night’s meeting to accept the grant award. Voting in favor were Baines, Rachel Moreno, Harvey Kitka, Mike Miller, Lillian Feldpausch and Ben Miyasato.

Baines said he was pleased the council accepted the grant award.

“Education and Tlingit language and culture have long been one of our highest priorities of the council,” Baines said, referring to the sentiments expressed by tribal citizens through surveys. “A lot of these things will be addressed by the grant, and I’m very happy we were accepted for it.”

The vote on Wednesday reversed the tribal council’s decision at the April 2 meeting to turn down the grant, with council members saying they didn’t have enough information about the project to accept the funds, Baines said today.

Baines said supporters of the Wooch.een Yei Jigaxtoonei project turned out in force Wednesday to testify in favor.

“There was a huge turnout of people who encouraged us to pass it,” Baines said. He thanked elders Herman Davis and Ethel Makinen for urging the council to vote in favor of the grant.

Baines also thanked staff members for their work on the grant, including Heather Powell and Tristan Guevin.

The local project will operate in both school and community settings to offer educational experiences.

“The project will draw on the knowledge, expertise and wisdom of elders, the passion and dedication of educators, the often-unrecognized and underestimated strengths of adolescents, and the promise, energy and optimism of childhood to enact the vision of Kaal.átk’ Charlie Joseph Sr.: ‘Even from long ago we cherish our grandchildren; no matter what we value, we offer it up to them.’”

The funding will support the development of Tlingit language and culture activities for families with a focus on Native families with children enrolled in the Wooch.een yei Jigaxtoonei preschool and at Baranof Elementary School.

Sponsors plan to use the grant funds to develop language and culture activities, increase opportunities for community-based Tlingit language learning, develop an annotated catalog of family engagements and Tlingit language and culture resources, and develop evaluation measures to gauge and track Native family engagement at the Wooch.een Yei Jigaxtoonei preschool and Baranof.

The grant also addresses at least seven of the STA tribal council’s goals, including “emphasizing academic success,” ”emphasize Native ways of knowing,” ”increase parental involvement in children’s education,” ”zero Native dropout rate in the school system,” ”major comeback of Tlingit language under way,” ”improve parental involvement with children,” and “Tlingit ways of spiritual healing in place.”

The Kellogg foundation said that the recipients of the grants are “developing and implementing transformative family engagement models in the field of early childhood education.”

“These 30 exceptional organizations from 18 states and the District of Columbia and WKKF’s investment over the next three years will support the foundation’s vision of seeing this work infused throughout local and national education reform efforts and lifting up the voices of families to set all children on a path to success,” the Kellogg news release said. “Because of the unprecedented interest and clear demand from the field, the foundation, now more than ever, understands the need for family engagement funding and is using this opportunity to invest in families.”


Information from: Daily Sitka (Alaska) Sentinel, https://www.sitkasentinel.com/

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