Alaska Native students continue to achieve, despite challenging times

Published: May. 31, 2020 at 7:36 PM AKDT
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Iḷisaġvik College conferred its first-ever four-year Bachelor’s degree.

The public community college in Barrow had started their Bachelor’s program just about two years prior.

“Many of these students were saying to us, we want to go on, we want to get our bachelor's degree, but we can't leave,” said Pearl Brower, the college president. “We cannot leave our jobs, our children, our families, our community.”

Brower said the only tribal college in Alaska only has one Bachelor’s program. They’re hoping to add a Bachelor’s program for teaching soon.

Darian Danner, the first person to earn a Bachelor’s degree at the college, said the opportunities there allow those on the North Slope more opportunities to expand their opportunities.

“I think tribal college is uniquely different. It has the way they artfully integrate the culture into their curriculum,” Danner said. “It was something that really stood out to me.”

Nyché Andrew, an incoming senior at Service High School was awarded the Yale Bassett Award which recognizes students for leadership, public service, addressing societal issues, and more.

Andrew advocated for graduates to have the option to wear tribal regalia during graduation ceremonies. She also started up the Indigenous Student Union at Service High School.

“It wasn't until I got into high school where I really started to gain strength from my identity,” Andrew said.

Andrew recalled times where she was bullied for her heritage. She wanted to hide it.

“And I knew that Native students all across the world are, you know, experiencing this bullying,” she said. “I didn’t want other people to go through what I went through.”

“I could not have been able to do what I do without the tremendous staff at Service High School,” Andrew said. “Principal Frank Hauser, Mrs. Imtiaz Azzam, Mrs. Deborah Benson, and Mr. Reuben Seidl, they are my foundation at school, and my number one cheerleaders.”