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[Weekly Inspiration] Urban and Rural Students Make Friends on the Alaska Frontier

[Weekly Inspiration] Urban and Rural Students Make Friends on the Alaska Frontier

Bridging the gap between rural and urban students is a tough task nationwide. In Alaska, encouraging interactions between the state’s city and rural populations can be a particularly difficult challenge. The Alaska Humanities Forum has developed a program that arranges weeklong trips to expose middle and high school students to the state’s 99 percent rural population.

This last spring, four students and one teacher traveled from East High School in Anchorage to Native Village, a small remote town on Scammon Bay. East High School boasts a diverse population, with more than 20 percent of their students being American Indian/Alaska Native or Hawaiian Native/Pacific Islander.

But despite a diversity clocking in at 15 times the national average, East High School is still very much a city compared to the school in Native Village. 100 percent of Scammon Bay School students are American Indian/Alaska Native. Due to the harsh climate and difficulties around travel, many students in Anchorage never leave until they go to college. This program aims to change that, aims to expose students to a culture and a way of life that they aren’t otherwise able to see.

These four students had the opportunity to learn about the way of life in Native Village, to see the way the population’s native roots impact the way they live and learn. But more than that, they learned another important lesson: while distance may separate them, there isn’t that much else standing between Alaska’s teenagers.

“I think that’s been fun and kind of eye opening to the kids from Anchorage,” said Melissa Rivers, Scammon Bay School’s principal. “Like, “oh, I would probably be friends from this kid if they were in the Anchorage school, or if I lived out here.” City kids are just a teenager, just like them. They just have different ways of living their lives.”

Check out the video from EdWeek and consider the ways in which schools can bring urban and rural populations together.