Looking Towards the Future: Career Development for Teens on St. Paul Island

The Aleut Community of St. Paul Island is 800 miles west of Anchorage in the Bering Sea. There are 445 residents on the island, and the TYP program currently serves 90 youth. Over the past few years, St. Paul Island has faced a variety of challenges related to substance abuse, education, and physical health. Its remote location has made it especially difficult to address some of these issues. However, the community has a very positive outlook toward the future, largely due to its thriving youth and community development initiatives that include both career development and physical health programs. Career development and education are major components of St. Paul Island’s TYP program. In order to show youth the kinds of options available to them, Project Coordinator, Ozzy Escarate, decided to organize the St. Paul Island Career Fair. Seventeen professional guests were invited including the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP), sponsored by the University of Alaska, Anchorage. ANSEP’s Pre-College Summer Bridge Component Program is designed to present the fields of science and engineering in a manner that appeals to Alaska Native youth. It is implemented through high school outreach initiatives, summer programs, professional internships, and undergraduate research projects. The program serves to spark a vision of a career in engineering or science for many youth. So far, 487 Alaska Native students have participated in Pre-College programs. These students prepare for university level coursework by completing classes in biology, trigonometry, chemistry and physics. The Tribal Government of St. Paul Island is building a strong relationship with ANSEP so that its young people can have the opportunity to explore a future in these fields. Following St. Paul Island’s career fair, six students submitted applications to the program and four were accepted; an unprecedented number! The youths traveled to Anchorage for three weeks where they enrolled in science and engineering classes and built their own computers. The students will continue their ANSEP experience over the next school year by taking online, high-level math and science courses and completing an internship in the field. TYP will continue to support them in this endeavor and is working with youth who are interested in applying to the program next year. Along with career development opportunities, the TYP program is engaged in a full calendar of summer events. Their Amix (Mother’s Brother) program brings the community together through physical activities, such as softball and soccer, using money donated by local businesses. It has helped youth address health issues such as diabetes, while providing them with a new sense of connection to their community. The program has fostered many intergenerational relationships and facilitated a means for youth and elders in the community to better identify with each other. Amix is also a new experience for the youth, many of whom have never been involved in these sports before. TYP staff are very excited about the upcoming year, in which they plan to hold another career development fair and become more involved in the school system. In summarizing his hopes for the future, Mr. Escarate commented, “One of the goals of our TYP program is to continue to develop our Aleut youth so they can be better prepared to face challenges both within and outside the village, and succeed. They are the future leaders of the Aleut community of St. Paul Island.”

“It’s easy to feel despair and like you’re not making progress, but being optimistic is important. Keep events on the schedule even if only 1 or 2 kids attend af first. Consistency is the key. If you’re consistent in what you do and get out there, eventually it will pay off.” -Ozzy Escarate, TYP Program Coordinator

Program Affiliation: