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KYUK Interns Voice Concerns Over Loss of Academic Opportunities

KYUK Interns Tatyana Avugiak and Kaylee King connect with friends, teachers, and KYUK virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Courtesy of Tatyana Avugiak and Kaylee King
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In this time of "hunkering down," kids are at home, many trying to finish their school work remotely. 

Two of these students used to attend the Lower Kuskokwim School District’s “Media Ready Academy,” a boarding school program in Bethel for high school students. They would come to KYUK to work with Katie Basile and Gabby Hiestand Salgado in the Multimedia department. They would also work with the rest of the staff, including News Editor Johanna Eurich. 

KYUK’s studios are very different now, because of COVID-19’s arrival in Alaska. People used to be there at all hours of the day, but now it is a huge barn, full of empty offices and studios. Maybe one or two people are in the building, compared to the dozens who used to roam the halls. Among those who used to be there are Kaylee King and Tatyana Avugiak, part of a group of students learning media. They did everything from announcing, filming, recording stories, and working in the archives to translating English into Yugtun. 

Last week, Basile couldn’t bring them to the studios. Instead, she brought them to the airwaves. Basile reached Avugiak at her home in Chefornak.

Basile: ”How are you both staying connected to your friends through this?”

Avugiak: “I mainly use my phone. I use Snapchat, or I even text my friends or even call them.”

King joined in from Mekoryuk. 

King: “We used to stay outside, go riding on separate four-wheelers. But after this, I guess we just started staying inside talking on the phone and texting.”

The two say that they're spending a lot more time now on social media with friends, where much of the conversation centers on COVID-19. There is fear, the need to clean and sterilize, and concern for the Elders, now more often heard by the kids on Facebook or VHF than in person.

“They said something about an illness back then,” said Avugiak.

Basile asked, “So you heard them reflecting on past epidemics?”

“Yes,” confirmed Avugiak.

Both interns miss the life and educational opportunties that they enjoyed in Bethel.

Avugiak: “For me it is really tough because I was having school in Bethel.”

King: “I was living in the dorms, where we had all these opportunities. Now that we’re home, we have to stay home.”

Avugiak: “This all makes me worry for my future and everything. So, I remind everybody to…”

King: “Make sure we’re sanitizing everything and all that.”

Avugiak: “We’re having conversations, like, we’re hoping it would end so the world could go back to its normal self.”

During their morning on KYUK, King and Avugiak repeated a pattern that was part of their working day at the studio: Basile asked them what the high and low of their day was. That day, one person’s low was the other’s high.

King said, “My low for today is that I’m mostly done with my school work.” Avugiak said, “My high?... Hmmm. My high is that I’m almost done with my school work.”

For now Avugiak and King remain at their homes in Chefornak and Mekoryuk respectively, staying safe and keeping up with their school work, whether it's their low or their high. At the studio in Bethel, the doors at KYUK are locked. Basile and most of the staff are "hunkered down" and working from home.