Last Friday, the Kuskokwim Learning Academy (KLA) held its 19th consecutive graduation ceremony, but this was the first year that the alternative high school has had a Student Council. Not only has the council brought a surplus of funds for student activities to the school, but it has given the student body an active role at KLA. KYUK visited the council at their last meeting of the school year on April 30.
On the second floor of the Yuut Elitnaurviat facility sits the current home of KLA. In the school social worker Katie Frutiger’s office, the KLA Student Council meets for the last time this year. President Julie Joekay has got this covered, despite last day jitters, opening the meeting by sharing a round of important personal updates that aim to “radiate positivity and celebrations.”
“I finished my online class,” exclaims Joekay as Frutiger, who is also the Council Advisor, congratulates her.
“I’m close to finishing mine; close to getting done with health class,” adds Student Council ASB Representative Devin Tunutmoak.
Once they review meeting minutes and approve the agenda, Joekay moves on to read through upcoming events, which include a visit from Senator Dan Sullivan on May 1.
The idea for a Student Council began when now-outgoing KLA Site Administrator Lori Safford wanted to get students more involved and create more student-led activities. With Frutiger on board, they did just that. At the beginning of the school year, students nominated peers to fit the roles of President, Vice President, and so on. Once positions were filled, they began meeting once a week in the social worker’s office. It was challenging at first, says Frutiger, to get started without much prior knowledge.
“We had struggled to get any kind of direction from district office, or kind of what a student council is supposed to do,” said Frutiger. “All we really knew was student activities. We could affect policy change, but we didn’t even know how we could do that.”
Direction improved when they attended the Alaska Association of Student Government, or AASG’s, fall conference in Juneau. Then help came from Bethel Regional High School’s Student Council for understanding things like a constitution and Roberts Rules of Order.
“And then when we kinda started to develop ideas, we were able to get the Director of HR, Josh Gill, to come and talk to us about what it would mean to make policy change and how to do that,” Frutiger said.
What they found out was that by being an alternative work-based learning school on a six-week session system annually, they could make their own student-led changes at KLA.
“Kinda the first semester was just learning, and second semester was actually doing more events, having more pep rallies,” Frutiger said. “And our main goal was to learn about student council, create notes for next year, and create a budget. And these guys worked so hard, with Ice Classic, with bake sales. I mean, there were some days we were just baking for 6 hours after school to get ready for a bake sale.”
Those hours paid off, with a total of $2,677, minus several hundred dollars of expenses, that will now all go into a Student Council bank account for next year. After graduation, Joekay is looking forward to taking the skills she’s built through experiences she’s had being the KLA Student Council President into the workforce, and is eager to attend the Sitka Academy to become a Village Public Safety Officer.