LKSD Recognizes School Community Advocate Matthew Enoch
Nunapitchuk’s Matthew Enoch is the first recipient of the annual Victor Kanrilak Memorial School Community Advocate Award. The award was created to recognize the Lower Kuskokwim School District’s School Community Advocates, who play an important role in fostering a positive environment in the district’s schools.
The award is named after Victor Kanrilak, who served as a school community advocate in Tununak for 20 years before passing away from cancer last year.
“He was someone who had a motto of 'live with love and compassion,'” said LKSD’s lead social worker, Meghan Crow.
Crow said that the district employs 15 to 20 school community advocates. Often operating behind the scenes, they take on a variety of roles to connect LKSD’s schools with the communities they reside in. For instance, many of them take attendance. If they notice a student is missing classes, they might talk with the student and the parents and brainstorm solutions tailored to that family.
“They're liaisons between the school and community, and they play a really huge role in making students feel safe and accepted at school,” Crow said.
Enoch, this year’s recipient of the Victor Kanrilak award, has been the school community advocate in Nunapitchuk for 23 years. Nunapitchuk’s principal, Michelle Gorby-Tefft, said that Enoch takes on any task for the school, like communicating with the village council about COVID-19 regulations. Enoch knows all of the students, she said. He knows their strengths and weaknesses, and he knows how to talk to them.
“He's always available,” Gorby-Tefft said. “I mean, even when he eats lunch, if a kid comes by and needs something or needs to talk, he's there. You know, he gives tirelessly of himself to help our kids be emotionally, physically.”
Enoch said that part of his job is to be a social worker for the students.
“I mostly listen to them. And I give pointers on how they can deal with an issue, and I encourage them to talk to their parents,” Enoch said.
Sometimes, Enoch said, students come to him with heavy subjects. That’s a challenge he’s willing to take.
“The moments that I’m most happy about in my work is when I know that I made a difference in a student’s condition at the time, or when I know that I was able to help a student go through a difficult issue,” Enoch said.
Crow said that LKSD has relied on local school community advocates to improve the culture and climate of the district’s schools for around 25 years. For nearly all that time, Enoch has been an important part of students’ lives in Nunapitchuk.