STEPS Alaska Updates
Stepping Up for Alaska's Youth!
Previous Newsletters

Welcome Back from the STEPS Team!
Welcome back to school!  

We hope that the start of your 2019-20 school year was both exciting and smooth.  It seems like we just joined some of you at your spring community celebrations.  

As we compiled our Promise Neighborhoods report in June/July, it was wonderful to hear about the many summer programs in full swing.  We’ve shared just a sampling, as we know plenty of activity in each of your communities.

Some districts reached out to us in May to invite us back to present in-service training to your staff in August or to host additional community conversations or to work on refining your work plans.  We are glad that you have found our AASB team trainings helpful to you as you build your staff’s understanding and capacity around Trauma Informed Schools, Family Engagement, School Climate and Connectedness survey and Chronic Absenteeism. We enjoy spending time your staff and we found it interesting and helpful to draw on the knowledge of some of our partners as co-presenters as well.

We also held a Superintendents' meeting and had some thoughtful discussion around equity and policy and the role and responsibilities of School Boards.  It is clear that the work in the schools need both the leadership support and policies that align with best teaching and learning practices.  

Two other areas our staff worked with some of our STEPS partners this summer included Chronic Absenteeism and Family Engagement.  Both hold relationships with family as a key to identifying factors and addressing ways to help our students and families together with our schools and partners.  

Thank you for all that you have done to get this school year off to a great start. 


Lori, Lisa, Emily, and Pat

Juneau School District & AASB staff at the Harvard Graduate School Family Engagement Seminar in Cambridge, July 2019
Partner Highlights
STEPS Community Overview
Bridging Learning and Transitions in Summer
Summer learning programs have the potential to help children and youth improve their academic outcomes and build protective factors. This is especially true for children from low-income families who might not have access to educational resources throughout the summer months and for low-achieving students who need additional time to master academic content.

Summer learning programs can address learning loss, deepen learning acquisition, and supporting smooth transition to the next grade level. Summer programs are also a time to weave together place-based content, build cultural identity and knowledge, connect with community resources and academic boosts.

Significantly, summer programs can be an opportunity for students to build great relationships with caring adults and elevate leadership skills that are not drawn on in the classroom. 

This summer, within STEPS communities there were a range of summer programs coordinated with tribal, non-profit, university, and school district support. Below is just a sample of the learning that occurred in the STEPS communities. 
Hoonah: Hoonah Culture Camp

Hoonah City School students, in partnership with Tlingit & Haida, Sealaska Heritage Institute, and many other community organizations, conducted a culture camp at Kennel Creek Cabin. Students were able to participate in many exciting activities, such as making beaded headbands and necklaces with master craftsmen, harvesting beach asparagus, and processing seal meat/fat. A full description of our STEPS cultural programming, written by Heather Lgeik’i Powell of Hoonah City School, is available below.
Students learning to process seat meat, flippers, and fat during the Hoonah Culture Camp.
Students listening to stories of strength and compassion from their elders.
Hydaburg: Hydaburg Culture Camp

Hydaburg has hosted its 23rd annual culture camp this year, but this summer was the first time that the number of Xaad Kíl (Haida language) speakers was on the rise thanks to the immersion pre-school program that kicked off last fall. The culture camp featured a totem pole raising. 
Students attending the 23rd annual Hydaburg Culture Camp!
Juneau: Latseen Northwest Coast Arts and Leadership Academy  

The Latseen Northwest Coast Arts and Leadership Academy sponsored by Sealaska Hertiage Institute has been a chance for Alaska Native high school students to develop leadership and academic skills on the University of Alaska Southeast campus for a number of years. This summer, with support from the STEPS grants 28 students also had a chance to earn college credit in three courses, putting them one step closer to completing college. Research has found that students who graduate from high school with some college credit are more likely to enroll and ultimately to graduate from college.   
Students learning the art of basket-weaving at the Latseen Northwest Coast Arts and Leadership Academy. Photo by Jennifer LaRoe.
Juneau: Math, Science, and Culture Camps for Middle Schoolers

Middle schoolers had the chance to participate in a similar summer camp at UAS hosted by Goldbelt Heritage Institute and a few students from STEPS communities also traveled to Anchorage to participate in the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. Because students begin to ruling out career options before they even arrive in high school, it is all the more important that younger students see and experience college and career possibilities. 
Sitka: Baranof Kids Camp

In Sitka, incoming kindergartners and first graders attended the Baranof Kids Camp and participated in hands-on activities, social emotional learning, and academic skills practice during two two-week sessions. The program partnered with Pacific High School, the Sitka Summer Music Program, the Blatchley Pool, the Sitka Public Library, SAFV, the Hames Wellness Center, Fortress of the Bear, and the Rotary Club to provide enrichment activities and healthy food for our students. T he camp was designed to help close the skills gap in early elementary by selecting kids who could most benefit from a summer-time academic boost.
Angoon: Skate Like a Girl Camp

Both girls and boys in Angoon participated in the Skate like A Girl camp. Kids had a chance to construct their own skateboard, learn a few tricks, and stretch themselves in new ways. While skate parks are common in urban settings, it was a novel experience for the Angoon students. The camp allowed them to combine STEM skills and physical exercise while developing the grit needed to do something new.
Students learning to skate on their own skateboards in Angoon!
Yakutat: Summer Explorers Program

In Yakutat the five week Summer Explorers program took place on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday when fishing was closed and as many kids as possible could participate. Students discovered the 5 different types of wetlands, water retention in sand and how to make the perfect sand castle, among  many other place-based lessons.
Summer Learning Research
National research supports that summer programs are important factors for learners. Nationally research suggests:
Students participating in summer programs have better outcomes than their peers who do not attend these programs.  

Voluntary summer programs, mandatory summer programs, and programs that encourage students to read at home can mitigate summer learning losses and even lead to achievement gains. 
Most Alaskan families agree that extra-curricular programs help students become more engaged in the classroom and prepare them for life after school. (Source: Alaska Afterschool Network)
Several practices contribute to program quality: including individualized instruction, parental involvement, and small groups.

Notifying parents early before they make other plans for the summer was important in maximizing enrollment. Offering engaging enrichment activities, providing transportation, and offering full-day programs, which better suit the needs of working families, were noted as methods of increasing enrollment and encouraging high attendance rates.
Cost is the main barrier to implementing summer learning programs.

Districts are making hard decisions about funding and have questioned the effectiveness of summer learning programs. However, district leaders who are committed to such programs have found creative ways to fund them. 
Partnerships can improve summer programs.  

Summer learning programs cost less when offered by school districts due, in part, to lower central office costs and in-kind contributions of services, such as facilities and meals. In addition, districts can leverage consistent sources of funding. Tribal organizations and other community organizations can offer activities beyond what the school can offer in terms of culture, language, place-based, or other activities. Also, these organizations may be able to recruit and enroll students who may not enroll in district activities. Staffing structures might be more flexible and affordable for these organizations as well. 
Summer learning loss is disproportionate and contributes to the achievement gap.

It can be countered by quality summer programs. On average, students lose math and reading skills over the summer. This plays out disproportionately for low-income students. Low-income students lose substantial ground in reading during the summer, while their higher-income peers often gain. 
Around the STEPS Community
Check out upcoming events and resources occurring within STEPS!
Upcoming Events
Sharing Our Knowledge:
A Conference of Tlingit, Haida & Tsimshian Tribes & Clans

Sept. 26 - Sept. 29, 2019 at the Áak’w Kwáan District, Juneau

The Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Tribes & Clans are having the next "Sharing Our Knowledge" conference in Juneau from Sept. 26-29. This year's theme is "Indigenous Perspectives on Climate Change." There will also be a collaborative field trip with the University of Alaska Southeast on Sunday, Sept. 29, which will include an orientation on the UAS campus prior to visiting important sites associated with the Auk Kwáan.

First Alaskans Institute’s 36th Annual Elders & Youth Conference

Oct. 13 - Oct. 16, 2019 at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks

The First Alaskans Institute's Elders and Youth Conference is being held in Fairbanks with a "Warming of the Hands" pre-conference event happening on Oct. 13 and the main conference happening on Oct. 14-16. This year's theme, "Qaneryararput Yugtun Piniqerput/Qaneryararput Cugtun Kayuqerput," celebrates the beauty and importance of Alaska Native languages. Elders & Youth provides a special opportunity to make connections, reinforce identity and belonging, explore art and issues, and contribute to the greater community through the transference of knowledge between our generations.

Strengthening Families: Training of the Trainers

Oct. 15 - Oct. 16, 2019 in Juneau

Thanks to generous funding from the State of Alaska, Department of Education and Early Development, the Child Welfare Academy (CWA) has developed an Alaskan Strengthening Families curriculum and is pleased to invite you to participate in a Training of Trainers (TOT) so that you can further the learning in your communities. The dates and locations of the training are listed below. In order to get through all the material, TOT will be 8:00 AM -5:00 PM on both days. The only requirement is that you have completed the two-day Strengthening Families training offered by CWA within the last five years.  

AASB Family Engagement Pre-Conference/Youth Leadership Institute

Nov. 7 - Nov. 11, 2019 in Anchorage

School districts nominate students to attend this youth leadership opportunity. Students learn, share, and practice a range of leadership skills. Registration will open up near the end of September, and is open to school board members, superintendents, and students. Additionally, STEPS partners are invited to join a one-day pre-conference focused on deepening and establishing long-lasting family partnerships. 

Sign Up for Girls/Boys on the Run!

Girls on the Run is happening in Juneau this fall and Boys Run (I toowú klatseen) will be taking place in Juneau and in Sitka. If you know of anyone interested in coaching or participating in these programs, which focus on empowering youth with vital social-emotional skills and a sense of accomplishment, please reach out to or
Free Parent Advocacy Training

The Section for Women’s, Children’s, and Family Health ( WCFH ), in collaboration with the UAA Center for Human Development , is developing a series of training modules for parents who are interested in learning about effective ways to advocate for their children. The trainings are entirely online and asynchronous, so they can be completed at the parents’ leisure. Parents of children who are from birth-8 years old are encouraged to apply, and a stipend will be provided for participants who are willing to contribute their time towards this study. 

Please contact John Cartwright at   or at 907-334-2420 if you or someone you know is interested and available to participate.

Sign Up for UAS Post-Secondary Pathways!

It is not too late to register for dual credit and CTE courses at UAS for this fall. There are also a number of compressed courses that are offered later in the fall.  Check out this sample of CTE offerings, and the full UAS course schedule is available  here. Contact Tina Ryman,, for more information and to learn about the many scholarships that are available to Southeast students.  

SERRC also has a number of great opportunities for students later in the school year through their Career Connections program. The link to SERRC resources can be found below.

School Climate and Connectedness Survey Open

All school districts are invited to take the 2020 Alaska School Climate & Connectedness Survey.   

Join the over 30 school districts who measure school climate as a first step to improving and strengthening school environments, relationships, and connections between students, staff and families.

Tlingit & Haida Head Start Spots Available

There are still spots available for Head Start in Angoon, Yakutat, and Juneau. Families are encouraged to apply for this opportunity! Follow the links below to find out eligibility requirements and to find the online application.
Send us your stories by the 8th to get your work featured in the STEPS Newsletter!
Research and Articles
The Healing Power of Community
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium; ADN

Here is a great article showcasing the work Coach Kyle Worl has done regarding the revitalization of Native Youth Olympics participation in Juneau! Read the full article for inspiring student quotes and photos of the NYO events. 

American Institutes for Research logo
American Institutes for Research Evaluation Finds that BARR Model is an Effective Intervention in Grade 9
American Institutes for Research

A recent study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) has shown a positive impact of the Building Assets and Reducing Risks (BARR) model on 9 th -grade student outcomes. The results of study showed that BARR participants not only achieved higher grades, but had better student-teacher and peer relationships. Read the full article for more information on the BARR model and the full three-year study.

Supporting Transitions and Educational Promise is a Collective Impact effort between regional partners and partners in Angoon, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Juneau, Klukwan, Sitka, and Yakutat which strives to improve outcomes for Southeast Alaska’s youth. We aim to do that by:
  • Ensuring that all kids - from womb to world - are safe and supported in their schools, homes, and communities
  • Partnering to smooth transitions, fill gaps, and align existing resources
  • Collaborating to move the needle on key measures

STEPS Alaska is made possible by the US Department of Education Promise Neighborhoods funding award to the Association of Alaska School Boards
The US Department of Education Promise Neighborhood Grant U215N170038 supports cradle to career solutions for the STEPS AK partners. This publication is the sole responsibility of the Association of Alaska School Boards and its contributors.