Senator Stevens congratulates Project Grad pioneers

Posted: Tuesday, June 15, 2004

U.S. Senator Ted Stevens spoke, joined Kenai Peninsula officials and educators last week in Anchorage at the Petroleum Club to speak on behalf of Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula at the Petroleum Club.

The Senator recalled his personal life experiences as he spoke to the first group of Project Grad students from the Kenai Peninsula and encouraged them to work hard and make the most of the opportunities they will have through Project Grad. The Senator noted that he has on display in his Washington, D.C. office the surfboard he used while a young man in California. For him, it symbolized not only the exuberance and energy of youth that he still exhibits, but also was a reminder of those special teachers who led him toward more serious and productive studies in college and law school that eventually led him to Alaska and the United States Senate.

Attendees at the breakfast gathering representing a variety of Alaska Industry were encouraged to make contributions and otherwise support the Project GRAD effort in Alaska. The event was held to generate support for the Project GRAD scholarship program and as a result, more than $17,000 was raised. The scholarships were named in honor of Senator Stevens as the "Stevens Family Scholarships."


Senator Stevens along with KPBSD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donna Peterson, Bob Moore, Project Grad Chairman, and Robert Rivers, Project Grad Houston, spoke to a group of supporters in Anchorage last week.

The breakfast fund-raiser was sponsored by the Tyonek Native Corporation, which not only supports Project GRAD, but also supports other efforts of students from the village of Tyonek. "I was very impressed when I first reviewed the information about the Project Grad program; I am convinced that this program will work in the communities of the Kenai Peninsula Borough and in Alaska in general. The Project Grad program benefits the students through personal contact. My personal experience has shown me the gaps in educational opportunities for kids in Tyonek and other Alaskan villages and rural communities. Project Grad is working to close those gaps," said Ted Kroto, Tyonek Native Corporation president.

Speakers who joined Senator Stevens in urging support for Project GRAD were Dr. Donna Peterson, Superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, and Felicia Yeaton, a Project GRAD scholar from the village of Port Graham.

A highlight of the breakfast event was the announcement by Marathon Oil by its Alaska executive, J. Brock Riddle, of a substantial donation for the Project GRAD "Summer Institute," which is scheduled to begin in Homer at the Kachemak Bay Branch of the Kenai Peninsula College. The goals of the Summer Institute are to strengthen tenth-grade readiness, demystify the college experience, and help last year's ninth-grade students complete a major step towards earning their Project GRAD Scholarship.


U.S. Senator Ted Stevens congratulates Project Grad students from the Kenai Peninsula.

Last September the program had fifty-eight freshmen in seven Project GRAD schools on the Kenai Peninsula sign scholarships. In order to receive the $1,000 scholarship for each of up to four years, these students are required to participate in at least two Summer Institutes. Twenty-five of those students are attending their first Institute this summer. Six professors from the college are working with the students in mathematics, writing and literature, study skills, and English for the workplace skills. In addition to math and language arts skills, students will have courses in creative arts and physical education activities. "The students in these seven schools have had their electives removed from their school schedules. The school district has had to focus on the basics in order to meet their budget constraints. The creative art schedule will open other possibilities for students in schools where we have had to drop the art program in order to buy textbooks," says Superintendent Donna Peterson. "I'm excited for the opportunity for the students. I am glad to see so many students are taking advantage of the program."

Robert Rivera, Chief Operating Officer of the Houston, Texas office of Project GRAD USA, also attended the breakfast and presented Senator Stevens with a special recognition for the substantial support he has given both the Alaska and the national effort by Project GRAD to reform underachieving schools and help young people succeed academically and go on to college. For more information, contact Heather Pancratz, Executive Director of Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula, 235-5612

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