Urban students sought to visit rural Alaska<

Posted: Tuesday, October 31, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska Humanities Forum is recruiting high school students willing to work to bridge the rift separating urban and rural Alaskans.

Sen. Ted Stevens secured $1 million in federal funds last year for a program to send urban students to rural Alaska to learn about the realities of life in the Bush, from subsistence to honey buckets.

The humanities forum has been working with the Alaska Native Heritage Center for the past year to set up the project.

By next spring, 25 to 40 students will be heading to villages in the Yukon Kuskokwim delta to stay with local families and attend village schools for about two weeks.

When they return home, the students will make presentations in their schools and to local community groups about what they learned during their visit.

''We're looking for students who are active in their school and community who are already demonstrating some leadership ability, who are open-minded and friendly,'' said Panu Lucier, director of the Urban-Rural Youth Program. ''Basically, we're sending ambassadors.''

When Stevens included money for the program in last year's budget he said he believed the gaps in understanding between urban and rural Alaskans could be bridged early by bringing children together.

The program is seeking 9th and 10th grade students from Anchorage and the Matanuska and Susitna valleys. As part of the application process the students will have to submit an essay and be interviewed by program organizers. They must also attend monthly cultural education sessions before they are sent to a village, Lucier said.

The students will be invited to observe or participate in subsistence activities including bird hunting and seal hunting and attend community meetings during their village stay, Lucier said.

''One of the main things we hope for is just that they develop friendships with their host family and community members and that this will be a long-lasting friendship,'' she said. When the students are older and have moved into community leadership positions they will have a better understanding of rural concerns, Lucier said.

The program is funded for two years but the humanities forum and heritage center hope to secure additional funding to continue the program beyond its second year.

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