STEPS Alaska Updates
Stepping Up for Alaska's Youth!
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STEPS Partners Work Together
STEPS partners participating in the Cultural Integration Book Study with Zaretta Hammond during our 2020 STEPS Gathering!
On April 27th - 28th, AASB hosted its annual gathering of STEPS partners to share best practices, celebrate achievements, and plan for the future. There was one twist though - the whole event was hosted virtually!

Much of the gathering, as one might expect, was dedicated to adapting to the "new normal," supporting our families who now have to adopt new technologies and learn from home. We discussed important topics, such as identifying inequities such as technology, food security, and other areas that are brought to light during the COVID-19 crisis.

Although we discussed the challenges, it was clear that the fundamental values driving our work - building relationships with students and families, place-based and culturally responsive learning, and aligning our work to better serve families - remain especially important while "sheltering in place".

It was great to see all of our partners come together and hear about the ways that our Southeast communities are stepping up to support each other in our time of need!

We have included some highlights of the resources shared at the STEPS partner gathering below.
2020 STEPS Gathering Overview
Adapting to COVID-19
Creating Community During COVID-19
STEPS Partners used "Jamboard" to discuss SEL and Trauma-Informed practices.
How do we create community during COVID-19? This is a question that was asked by many of our partner organizations and school districts during this crisis. As one district staff asked: "Ho w are we going to families, not waiting for them to come to us? We are used to schools being the gathering place, and this was a privilege."

Partnering with Families for Student Transitions
Family Support and Transitions
STEPS AK underscores the importance of student transitions between grade levels and the role of family partnerships for successful transitions. Now, more than ever schools are working hard to make sure family partnerships are strong and students are prepared for their school transitions.

One school district staff said, "it can feel like we are participating in a relay race with a handful of rice - and we are doing our best to make sure none of the rice falls through our fingers. We are now faced with an additional challenge during COVID-19, where the face-to-face interaction that we are usually afforded with families is not available. We are working hard to not let even one grain of rice drop."

We are amazed by the ingenuity and resiliency shown by our partners, and we have shared more takeaways by grade level below.
Takeaways by Grade Level
Cultural Integration
Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Zaretta Hammond & STEPS Partners
One of the slides from Zaretta Hammond's session, showing the intersectional approach she takes with CRT.
AASB was able to offer grant-funded partners an opportunity to participate in a five part book study on Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain.  

This session was received very well by participants, and we are excited to continue our collaboration with Zaretta Hammond! As one participant said, “She uses common sense and science to help us understand how to build independent learners. I am excited to have Zaretta Hammond back in Alaska.”

STEPS Partners Explore Place-Based Learning
Some of the flora and fauna found by students in Yakutat! Photo credit: Sarah Israelson
STEPS partners were able to create a word cloud about different terms we associated with the term "place-based learning."
Place-Based/Project-Based Learning in Yakutat
STEPS finished up the regional meeting with a session dedicated to Place Based Learning (PBL). The session included an exciting share out from Sarah Israelson, Yakutat School District Elementary Teacher.

This activity was lauded as a great example of PBL, with one district staff member saying, "k ids looked like they were focused and interested because it was hands on and building on things they know."

Partner Quotes

It is important to consider your own well-being when working with students and families, especially now when there is a real risk of developing "Zoom fatigue." Here are some of the ways our STEPS partners have been practicing self-care during quarantine:

  • "We are working together to support our fellow staff members who are struggling (sending flowers, notes, videos)."
  • "Ask each other, "How are you doing "and really listen..seems that there is an expectation to be ‘fine’ most or all days...lots of easy ways to assume things are okay."
  • "Our preschool group has really embraced this and we now have daily morning “check in” meetings for staff that are focused on using strategies for self-care, together. "
Next Steps
What lessons will our partners take from what they have learned at the 2020 STEPS Gathering? Here are some quotes from our partners:

  • "Have one on one conversations internally (within organization) but also with families."
  • "Connect across would be awesome to connect staff to share and learn from one another."
  • "Work with our folks to think about summer programming as "kit" learning or providing plans for families to use, rather than normal summer coursework."
  • "Connect more frequently by phone with families, especially those that we are not seeing online."
STEPS Gathering Evaluation
If you attended the STEPS Partner Gathering and did not fill out an evaluation, please let us know what you thought through the link below!
STEPS Community Resources
Tele-Native Youth Webinar Series
Center for Native American Youth

The Center for Native American Youth is hosting a webinar series, which is intended to be a virtual space created for and by Native youth. This webinar series will cover topics of interest that are identified by the participants themselves, and in general will be a good space for youth all across the country to have their voices heard. Please click the link below for registration links and more information.

Southeast Youth Power Hour Survey
Tlingit & Haida Navigators Program

Tlingit & Haida, along with other partners across Southeast Alaska, are currently planning a "Youth Power Hour," a virtual space (similar to the Tele-Native Youth Webinar series) for youth across the Southeast region to meet over teleconference and take part in educational conversations with guest speakers. In order to help craft this virtual event, T&H is collecting survey responses from students, staff, and community partners who would be interested in this opportunity. The survey link is below!

Rural Womxn's Care Package Survey
Native Movement

Native Movement is committing to sending essential items for women living in rural Alaska during the coronavirus pandemic. This survey is intended for individuals living in rural Alaska and are struggling to access the essential products they need, such as feminine care products, condoms, art supplies, etc. Please send this link to women in rural communities that you may know of who could benefit from receiving these care packages!

Juneau Youth Check-In Survey
Tlingit & Haida Navigators Program

T&H is sending out a survey in order to check in with Juneau youth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several education partners have indicated that some youth and families in the Juneau community do not have access to all of the resources they need during this time, and this survey is intended to identify those students that need help. Please send this link to youth that you know or work with in Juneau!

UAS Successful Scholars Program
August 18th in Juneau

The Successful Scholars Program is a support program for first-generation, low income and/or underrepresented college students at the University of Alaska Southeast.

A strong support system can make a big difference in how students navigate the changes and challenges the college experience brings and will be a factor in finding their success at UAS. UAS recognizes students will bring several assets to campus and will face unique experiences as they begin this exciting journey. If you would like to apply for this program, please click the link below for more information and for the application link.

Send us your stories by the 8th to get your work featured in the STEPS Newsletter!
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.