Yupik cultural leader to speak to area youth

Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Earl Polk, a member of the Alaska Native sobriety movement and a Yupik cultural leader will speak at several sites in the Kenai-Soldotna area Wednesday and Thursday. Although he is well-known throughout Alaska, this will be his first tour of the central Kenai Peninsula.

"I've personally heard him speak, and he's great," said Jeni Merkes, AmeriCorps representative from Sterling who is organizing his visit.

Polk does not just speak to the youth, but involves the audience and is a dynamic communicator.

"He's easy to listen to," she said.

Once word got around that he was coming to town, she had so many calls she had to turn down some potential speaking engagements, she said Monday.

Polk will visit Soldotna High School at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday to speak to the Title IX Native education class. At 1:45 p.m. he will be at Sterling Head Start.

After school, beginning at 3:30 p.m., he will be the keynote speaker at a "spring fling" youth workshop for fourth- through 12th-graders at Sterling Elementary School. Bob Oaks, president of the Sterling Community Club, also will be at the workshop. The free, public workshop will feature refreshments and games. The purpose is to form Sterling's first youth organization.

On Thursday, Polk will have breakfast with the morning Head Start class in Sterling. At 10:45 a.m., he will visit Kenai Middle School to speak to sixth-graders. He will speak to grades nine through 12 at Kenai Alternative School at 1:30 p.m. and to grades four through eight during the Power Hour meeting at the Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula club house in Kenai starting at 4:15 p.m. This is the first time the Boys and Girls Club has hosted Polk as a youth speaker.

Polk, who was born and raised in Bethel, inspires youths to take hold of their own destinies, to become role models in their communities. He will encourage peninsula youths to become involved in their communities, appreciate their cultural heritage and stay clear of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

He has been contracted by the Rural Alaska Community Action Program, (RuralCAP), which sponsors the Sterling Head Start, for the past three years and travels around the state speaking in middle and high schools.

For more information about the visits, contact Jeni Merkes at 260-1950.

Cecelia Keyes is the mother of a child attending Sterling Head Start and is the Southcentral Alaska regional representative on RuralCAP's Child Development Policy Council. She is an alternate parent representative for Region 10 on Alaska's Head Start Associa-tion's board.

Clarion reporter Shana Loshbaugh contributed to this story.

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