by CVRF Staff
Coastal Villages Region Fund (CVRF) is gearing up for a second year of its popular tenth-grade Ciuneq program with two sessions focused on member-community tenth-graders scheduled to take place in Seattle this month. Ciuneq, which refers to “the future” in Yup’ik, is designed to provide an opportunity for youth from rural Alaska to explore the educational destinations that may be available to them if they continue to work hard in high school.
The tenth-grade Ciuneq program was designed to expand students’ knowledge about careers and educational opportunities in the maritime industry and ways to prepare for college and trade school while still enrolled in high school. CVRF is partnering with Seattle Maritime Academy (SMA), Ocean Inquiry Project (OIP), and Coastal Alaska Premier Seafoods (CAPS), a subsidiary of CVRF, to offer qualified applicants a learning experience that will take place over six days in Seattle.
Over the course of two, week-long sessions, SMA will host students and adult mentors from Alaska communities along the Bering Sea coast to participate in SMA’s Experience Maritime Program. While at SMA, students will receive first-hand experience in all things maritime, including pathways to the deck or engineering side of vessel operations, as well as manufacturing, repair, and marine science.
“The students that completed the Ciuneq program last year were already familiar with fishing but expanded that knowledge and learned a lot more about other career opportunities in the industry”, said SMA’s Director, Sarah Scherer. “After completing Ciuneq, many of the students stated they see working in the Maritime Industry as not only viable, but interesting and enjoyable.”
Oceanographers from OIP help create ‘light bulb’ moments for students in the program by engaging them in hands-on lab exercises and boat-based science. Students spend a half day in the laboratory conducting water density experiments, constructing boats of clay to learn about buoyancy, and becoming their own human tidal model. The following day, students relate their lab-based knowledge to physical, chemical, and biological data they collect while aboard the SMA vessel ‘Maritime Instructor’ in Puget Sound.
“This is a great program, not only for students, but also for OIP instructors who benefit from the experience too”, said OIP Oceanographer Liz Ewings. “Describing the interconnected systems of the ocean with students of varying ages, backgrounds, and interests helps us hone our science communications skills. In addition, students bring with them their own understanding of the ocean, which provides valuable perspective to scientists.”
Last October, 40 participants from 16 different communities in the CVRF region participated in the first two sessions of the new tenth-grade focused program. The average GPA of participating students was 3.479, and youth came from the Lower Kuskokwim, Lower Yukon, and Kashunamiut School Districts. Out of the 40 youth that participated, 24 had participated in the ninth-grade focused Ciuneq program the previous year, and 38 had participated in CVRF’s popular Youth to Work Program.
“We are excited to continue to offer programs that support and inspire the youth in Western Alaska,” said CVRF’s Community Benefits Manager, Nathaniel Betz. “Offering the tenth-grade Ciuneq program allows us to better support a cohort of hard-working youth who are investing in their future.”