STEPS Alaska Updates
Stepping Up for Alaska's Youth!
Students at Yakutat First Day. Photo Credit: Connor Meyer, 2022.
The Urgent Need to Embed Identity and Culture
When Dannielle Carlson arrived on campus from her rural hometown on the Aleutian Chain she had no secure housing or a clear understanding of the financial commitments. She had spent each year of high school living with a different family. She received guidance along the way, but it was by no means comprehensive. 

In her master’s thesis, Dannielle interviewed eleven other Alaska Native students who made a similar leap to college. She writes about their grit and ability to persist in foreign systems that they felt unprepared for. She also observes that “expecting Indigenous students to be resilient in order to succeed is unrealistic, unfair, and a perspective to be reevaluated.”

Below we’ll look at how partners are working to increase access to language and culturally responsive teaching. And how having a strong sense of cultural identity is a postsecondary strength.

Don’t forget to check out Key Dates for STEPS - 22-23 School Year at the very end!
Culture & Impact
Making a Collective Impact on Southeast Alaskan Languages
Haa Tóo Yéi Yatee (It is inside us)

Many tribal entities, including Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, Sealaska, Goldbelt Heritage, Sealaska Heritage Institute, and Douglas Indian Association have been working together to address the urgent needs to preserve and restore ‘Lingit, Xaad K’il, and Sm’algyax languages.
In July, this group spent two days together to understand one another’s work, strengthen relationships, build trust and leverage resources. The group reflected on what they can do to advance southeast languages together that they can not do as a single organization.

The group worked on many elements of a strong collective impact effort established: 
  • Key values and communication structures
  • Shared vision and mission
  • Established goals and shared measurements to track progress
  • Some initial ideas on how to measure the impact of their work

The language revitalization group also discussed:
  • On-going structures or facilitators to provide backbone support
  • Important to share with their boards, leadership, staff
  • Next steps for mutually reinforcing activities including alignment, healing, and activities that have high impact on language learning and supporting teachers in the region.

The goals of the language teachers mirror those of the organizations: building a robust community of first language speakers, leveraging financial resources, and creating and sharing easily accessible curriculum.

Many of the Lingít, Xaad Kíl, and Sm'algyax language teachers in STEPS communities have benefitted from training resources or programs offered by tribal entities. They are excited about the opportunity for even more coordinated and strategic approaches to address the urgent needs of language revitalization.
Our Cultural Landscape: Culturally Responsive Education Conference
Engaging Your School Communities: Finding Better Ways to Engage with All Our Families facilitated by Lisa Worl & Connor Meyer.
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) held a hybrid conference on August 11-13, 2022 in Juneau that was offered free for educators to attend. The theme of this year’s conference was “Our Way of Life Persists.” 

AASB/STEPS staff presented at the conference in four sessions on topics including intergenerational healing, engaging families in schools, and restorative practices. Several of our STEPS partners also presented at the conference providing practical guidance and ways to integrate culturally responsive practices in the classroom and with students.
Families as Culturally Responsive Partners
Juneau Community Dialogues, Spring 2022.
Families are experts in knowing their students and in knowing ways to connect family cultural knowledge and ways of doing things to school processes, systems and school resources.  

This past spring, AASB staff facilitated community dialogues focused on deepening connection between school and families in Juneau.  

Valuing Family Knowledge:
  • By ensuring that they feel valued and build confidence with them.
  • Ask the students and families what works best for them.
  • Acknowledge that there is continuous learning happening, even in non-traditional ways.
  • Invite them to come and share their experiences, put value in their traditional knowledge, and encourage them to participate in these ways.
  • As teachers, feel free to ask colleagues for tips and help.
  • Invite parents to share their cultural background and have a calendar of traditional celebrations. 

Create Safe and Open Space for Sharing:
  • Create safe spaces and make it less scary to be there.
  • Enact an open-door policy and think deeply about what makes people feel open
  • Always ensure spaces and discussions are family-friendly.
  • Engaging grandparents and elders in the classroom - this helps students feel safe and it keeps elders engaged. 

Hear more about what community dialogues are and how they've impacted schools in this 5-minute video:
Check out the information for Juneau's upcoming Community Dialogue on Monday, October 24th from 5:30-7:30 pm at Thunder Mountain High School!

Contact Lisa Worl ( for information on upcoming dialogues or the resources being developed for piloting in the Spring of 2023.
A Path for the Future: Rethinking Postsecondary Transitions
Research finds that indigenous students who view their cultural identity as a strength actually have higher college GPAs. STEPS partners have been working on a Postsecondary Bridging Framework that centers on cultural identity, academic preparation, and navigation skills. Evaluate how well your district is incorporating cultural identity with the Rethinking Readiness assessment. And join the conversation at the Now for Next Workshop on November 7th in Anchorage. Read More
In the News
STEPS Partners mark Orange Shirt Day
A mother and son hold up a sign for Orange Shirt Day in front of a former Bureau of Indian Affairs school on Douglas Island, on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)
KTOO Article: Alaskans plan to honor victims and survivors of Indian boarding schools

“Understanding what’s happened here and understanding that history allows for us to strive to tend well to the landscape that we live in." - Ati Nasiah, AWARE
Upcoming Opportunities
For STEPS Partners

STEPS Workgroups and Professional Learning Communities include:
Mental Health Consultation - Thurs, Oct. 13th, 11 am
Office hours for budgeting and reporting - Wednesdays, 3 pm

See the STEPS Resources page for an updated calendar and Zoom links.

Juneau Community Dialogue
Share in the conversation about how we can work together to make sure the transition to high school and beyond is easier for students and families!
Monday, October 24th, 5:30 - 7:30 pm at Thunder Mountain High School
Contact Lisa Worl for more details.

For Educators & Practitioners

Alaska STEAM Conference
Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15
Juneau-Douglas High School - Kalé

Now for Next; Turning the curve on Alaska postsecondary outcomes workshop
Monday, November 7
Captain Cook, Anchorage
Register here (free!)

Register for this statewide conversation examining how schools, families, higher ed, employers, and others to look at what we can do now to help students prepare for what’s next. The workshop is free and AASB has some travel funding for STEPS partners. If you’re interested in attending, please reach out to Emily,

Alaska Healthy Schools Learning Collaborative 
October 25th & 26th
Virtual, Register Here

Contact Pat Sidmore,, to tap into this statewide learning opportunity.

Rural Career Counseling
For those who would like to go a little deeper, the Rural Career Counseling 101 is an asynchronous class designed for staff in schools that do not have career counselors. Anyone can take this class for free. Those taking the class for credit through UAA will pay $79 and must complete the class by December 10, 2022. Rural Career Counseling 101 is available now, please email for course information and instructions on how to access the class.

Kaa Tukaxsaké Héende-Towards the River That Untangles a Person’s Mind
November 3-4, 2023
Join organizations in Juneau dedicated to the work of lifting up culturally responsive, trauma-informed and restorative practices.

For Students, Families and Staff

New Podcast: The Unbroken Tongue
Have you explored Xh'unei Lance Twitchell's new podcast The Tongue Unbroken (Tlél Wudakʼóodzi Ḵaa Lʼóotʼ) about Native American language revitalization and decolonization? Listen here now!

And if you’d like to learn more, the weekly Lìngit Learner group will be resuming in September. For more information on how to sign up, email
Looking for additional ideas? Check out the STEPS Resources page for past newsletters and other STEPS-related resources.