It is a well known fact that the high school graduation rate in Alaska is below average compared that of the lower forty-eight. In Anchorage a group of high school students discussed what they are thankful for; many said “Opportunities.” These students are part of the Chugach School District’s Voyage to Excellence Program, formed by the Chugach Alaska Corporation. This is a wonderfully beneficial program that brings Alaska Native, as well as rural, students from all parts of Alaska to Anchorage where they are taught about life, how to plan their future, and prepare for graduation exams. In its 10th year, this program has achieved great success, with a phenomenal 98% high school graduation rate. Compare that number to the 2006 statewide graduation rate for Alaska Natives of 45%, the lowest percentage of any ethnic group in the state, according to the state Department of Education, which is already below Alaska’s overall graduation rate of 60%.
Unfortunately, because the program has limited funding provided by the state and grants, the program can only take 150 participates each year. Why is this? If the program has such a high success rate, why is there not more money going into it? As sociologists, do you think it is because they are a minority, so most of the state money and grants go towards privileged students? Is it that those in charge have expectations of failure for Alaska Native students, or hold negative stereotypes of Alaska Natives – having children at a young age, or the tendency towards consumption of alcohol that forces them to drop out? Or is it something else?
Some might think that this program is taking away Alaska Native culture, because it forces them to leave their villages and travel away from their traditional homes and ways of life. But this program does the opposite. It provides Alaska Native students the opportunity to succeed where they have not been so successful before, in education. Culture norms and values are passed down from generation to generation. However this program is not about taking away their culture but help educate the next generations with skills that can be used both in cities and back home in their villages.