Sealaska Heritage gets education & Soboleff Center grants

Image courtesy the Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Sealaska Heritage Institute has received a total of $4.5 million for educational programs and the Walter Soboleff Center to be built in downtown Juneau.

The federally funded Alaska Native Education Program has awarded three grants; the first for about $2 million over two years, dedicated to construction of the Soboleff facility.

The second grant is $1.2 million over three years for cultural orientation programs for teachers in the Juneau School District and University of Alaska Southeast.

The heritage institute has already signed an agreement with the school district and UAS for educational programs. SHI president Rosita Worl says the program for teachers’ began informally this fall.

“It (the grant) will also allow us to develop culturally relevant resources,” Worl says. “We know that teachers are extraordinarily busy and we know they have definite requirements they have to teach to, so providing supplemental materials that speak to our culture, I think, will also help them.”

A third grant over three years is for $1.37 million for math summer camps for Southeast Alaska middle school students. Worl calls the proposed classes math “boot camp.”

“We have partnered with the University of Alaska in the teacher-training program and we see where our students are coming into the university not prepared in math — in general. I mean we do have students who are doing well in math, but in general,” she says. “So we decided that we were going to go after programs where we could help our students in math.”

Such programs will be part of the Walter Soboleff Center when it is completed. It will have classrooms and event spaces as well as ethnographic collections and a research facility. Worl says about half the funds have been raised for the center, estimated at $20 million.

Alaska Native organizations, school districts and universities are eligible to compete for funds from the Alaska Native Education Program. It was created by the late U.S. Senator Ted Stevens for Alaska Native education programs, because Alaska does not have benefit of educational funding through Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, unlike other states.