NINE STAR AND ITS PARTNERS
The Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) is a nonprofit arm of one of the thirteen Native Alaskan Corporations that serve Native Alaskans and Pacific Islander communities throughout the state. CITC provides a range of services, including adult education, GED preparation, basic skills and computer training, work-readiness training, and social services such as childcare, parent education, family literacy services, and substance abuse prevention. Nine Star and CITC began a partnership to help clients take greater advantage of these services.
In a central spot at the CITC offices, one wall is covered with photographs and stories of clients who obtained their GED diplomas. Colorful bulletin boards frame the success stories, highlighting the accomplishments of the students, while encouraging others to persist toward their goals.
CITC staff reported that some Native Alaskan clients were not comfortable going downtown to the Nine Star offices or the busy Job Centers, so Nine Star and CITC set up classroom space and an open computer lab at the CITC building. Classes are staffed by volunteers and certified instructors (paid jointly by both organizations), and Nine Star and CITC are collaborating to develop curricula focused on employment skills. Nine Star and CITC also share professional development. CITC staff help train Nine Star instructors on cultural issues, and CITC staff can attend any of Nine Star’s professional development programs.
THE TUNDRA PIPELINE BRINGS IN LEARNERS
After Nine Star and CITC set up services at the CITC offices to make them more accessible to Native Alaskans from remote villages, the offices became crowded. But staff are very pleased that word-of-mouth is filling their classes. Alaskans call this informal spread of information the “Tundra Pipeline,” and administrators say their long waiting list for GED instruction is proof that the partnership, which allows them to bring services to the client, is working. Because it can take a month or two to move from the waiting list into the classroom, CITC staff encourage students to take advantage of both structured and unstructured courses offered through their on-site Computer Development Center. Students generally have some interest in developing basic computer skills, and this enables them to make good use of their time while waiting to join a GED class.
Covenant House serves youths aged 13-20 who are homeless and suffering from addiction, mental health problems, or abuse. Nine Star trained the youth resource coordinator at Covenant House, Roger Hamacher, so that he could administer GED tests and pre-tests. He also can bring in Covenant House youth to Nine Star offices for testing at a time convenient for the student, rather than just at specific hours. Hamacher notes that this flexibility is the key to the improved rates of GED completion for Covenant House clients. Nine Star also makes tutors available if these students need extra help. This flexibility has enabled Covenant House to help more clients obtain GED diplomas. Says Hamacher, “The GED has a dramatic impact on homelessness. You see a huge increase in self-esteem when a kid goes from homeless to GED-holder.”
PARTNERSHIP INCREASES GED GRADUATES
In the two years since Covenant House and Nine Star joined forces, 87 young people have obtained their GED diplomas. In the previous decade, before the partnership, only two young people from Covenant House received GED diplomas.
Anchorage Community Schools
Nine Star and ALP work closely with five of Anchorage’s schools to bring services to communities by providing instructors to lead classes in GED preparation, English literacy, and family literacy. Fifty-nine families with 134 children participated in the partners’ Even Start program last year. To support theses partnerships, Nine Star created a new staff position of community coordinator. The community coordinator attends neighborhood council meetings and other community events, helps with case management, coordinates with the Reading Excellence Act program in the schools, and teaches English literacy or family literacy classes.
One school, Fairview Elementary, serves about 10 percent of the partners’ Even Start program participants and recently won a national grant to ensure that children were reading at grade level by third grade. Out of fourteen districts, Fairview was chosen, along with two other schools, because of its demonstrated need for English literacy instruction. Fairview’s minority population is large and diverse: 40 percent Hispanic, 20 percent Samoan, plus Native Alaskan students and those of Hmong and Filipino descent.
In this collaborative program, Nine Star sends instructors to the school (and pays their salaries) four days a week to run a family literacy program. Fairview Elementary staff members provide support for the family literacy activities in the school, including space, and work with Nine Star staff to help forge a connection to the home, for example, by providing books for participating families to take home.