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UAF Alaska Native Language Center and Kuskokwim Campus Awarded $1 Million Yup'ik Language Grant

Submitted by Kasey Gillam
Phone: (907) 474-7581


The Alaska Native Language Center and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel will receive $1 million over the next three years for a Yup'ik language education program in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta. The grant was awarded through the U.S. Department of Education Alaska Native Education Program.

The grant is designed to strengthen Yup'ik education in the classroom by enhancing the second language skills of Lower Yukon, Lower Kuskokwim and Kuspuk school district certified teachers and teacher's aides as well as recruiting Alaska Native youth to Yup'ik education as a career choice.

"Both the Lower Yukon and Kuspuk districts have dedicated time each school day for a Native language and culture lesson, but the grant takes language education to a new level by creating educational opportunities for teachers and aides in the region who want to sharpen their language and teaching skills," said Walkie Charles, an instructor with ANLC.

The Lower Kuskokwim School District has worked for more than two decades in the region to train certified teachers and develop language program options to foster Yup'ik language retention. The grant builds on this success.

UAF's Kuskokwim Campus will house the program providing a familiar environment for the participants to work together. A full-time coordinator will be hired at the Kuskokwim campus, two current Yup'ik language faculty will have partial reassignments to focus on the project and Yup'ik elders will be brought in as language specialists.

"People in the region are excited to get this going," said Bob Medinger director of UAF's Kuskokwim Campus. "The new program will partner UAF and Kuskokwim Campus with regional school districts, communities and the Association of Village Council Presidents to create what we believe is an effective approach to enhance, if not preserve, the Yup'ik language."

By building on local programs in place in the region, program partners hope to foster comprehensive programs in Yup'ik language proficiency and Native language education specifically targeted to meet the needs of the region.

"Regionally, a handful of certified teachers will be encouraged to complete a master's degree and become faculty," said Patrick Marlow, assistant professor with ANLC. "Participants will be instrumental in the continued strength of the program. When the initial grant funding runs out what stays behind is the expertise of the people who took advantage of this opportunity."

The proposal includes the planning and implementation of two new certificate programs; one in Yup'ik proficiency, and one in Yup'ik language education, designed for aides already in the classroom and those who are interested in becoming teacher aides.

The grant also provides funds for faculty travel, and course and program development. Students will participate in an intensive three-week summer session in Bethel. The AVCP will help to identify candidates for the program.

More than 51 percent of all students in the region are classified as Yup'ik-speaking, however fluency becomes more rare each year. Out of approximately 20,000 central Alaska Yup'iks, some 10,500 speak their ancestral language, making it the largest Native speaking region in the state.

CONTACT: Bob Medinger, Director of Kuskokwim Campus at (907) 543-4502 or e-mail lfrcm@uaf.edu or Patrick Marlow, ANLC at (907) 474-7446 or e-mail ffpem@uaf.edu or Walkie Charles, ANLC at (907) 474-7170 or e-mail ffwc@uaf.edu.