UAF gets $1 million to strengthen Yup'ik education

Posted: Monday, November 04, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The University of Alaska Fairbanks has received a $1 million grant to strengthen Yup'ik language education in classrooms in the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta.

The grant is intended to enhance the second-language skills of Lower Yukon, Lower Kuskokwim and Kuspuk school district certified teachers and teacher aides and for recruiting Alaska Native youths to teach Yup'ik as a career.

The money will be used over the next three years to develop a certificate in Yup'ik proficiency and another in Yup'ik language education. At the onset, the new program is expected to benefit 10 students, 12 teacher aides and five undergraduate and graduate fellowships, said Walkie Charles, an instructor at the university's language center.

Over time, the university hopes participants will start programs of their own.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Education Alaska Native Education Program. Courses will be held at the UAF Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel.

The grant builds on work already under way in the district, which has worked for more than 20 year training teachers and fostering Yup'ik-language retention, university officials said.

The university will hire a full-time coordinator, two current Yup'ik language faculty will be partly reassigned, and Yup'ik elders will serve as language specialists during summer sessions.

More than 51 percent of all students in the region are classified as Yup'ik speaking; however, fluency becomes more rare every year, Charles said.

Out of about 20,000 central Alaska Yupiks, roughly 10,500 speak the language, making the area the largest Native-speaking region in the state.

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