Today’s Native Leaders goes to Homer, Alaska – UNITY, Inc.

Today’s Native Leaders goes to Homer, Alaska

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The Kenai Peninsula in south central Alaska is home to more than 20 tribal communities. Through the school system, each village has a regional youth council where members are provided opportunities to develop leadership skills essential for academic and career success. They learn to weave their leadership expertise into both their traditional and contemporary teachings.

A team from the Kenai Peninsula Native Youth Leadership Program, aka Project GRAD attended the September 2016 TNL training session in Anchorage. They were motivated by the TNL Peer Trainers and Peer Leaders model so they asked if TNL could come to their community to work with their youth. On the second weekend of November, the TNL team, led by Leslie Locklear, Tatiana Ticknor and Eric Woody worked with their peers, guiding them through the process of planning and implamenting a service project for the betterment of their communities.

Each of the youth groups from the KPNYL consortium were given the option of creating a public art work or smaller, more individualized works of art addressing community challenges. During a break on Saturday afternoon, they created small pieces of art to be displayed in designated areas in their schools.

Five groups planned and developed exciting and thought-provoking projects. One group elected to address the high incidence of alcohol misuse in their community by bringing together youth and elders to spend time with one another and work on traditional craft projects. The youth feel they have much to learn from the elders and are excited to begin their project.

Another group is planning a photo exhibition that will illustrate positive and active behaviors one can experience if they choose not to have alcohol in their life. The photo exhibition will involve community members participating in healthy, active and positive activities as an alternative to alcohol.

The third group plans to create a series of murals around their hometown that pay tribute to animals that are significant to their culture. Members of the community will be encouraged to participate in the painting of the murals to encourage community involvement and taking ownership of the artwork.

The fourth group is planning to create a public work of art that is a replica of a basket from their tribal tradition. They will collect flat stones from the shoreline and write wishes for a happy healthy community and put them in the “wish basket”. Once the basket is full, they plan to use the stones to build a path that will represent a healthy community.

The last group is working on a video that will talk about the ill effects of alcohol and make community members aware of the negative effects of alcohol.

For lead Peer Trainer Leslie Locklear, “it was a good experience to be able to really connect with the youth because we worked with a smaller group than the usual umbers we have for other TNL trainings.” Survey results showed that the youth participants appreciated that UNITY allows youth to lead other youth.