What does it take to be a good parent? Mary and Ulrich Ulroan from Chevak say that it takes raising children with a fierce love for subsistence and their Yup’ik and Cup’ik cultures. Those efforts were rewarded last week when the Alaska Federation of Natives honored the Ulroans as Parents of the Year.
It wasn’t always an easy road. Mary and Ulrich Ulroan both worked on their college degrees when they had just three kids, which then grew to seven, but one of the things they prioritized was quality time.
"My son Aaron, he would remind me of those times I would sit him down and talk to him sometimes for an hour about advices I learned growing up with my parents and grandmother," Ulrich said.
Ulrich says that his son now uses that wisdom for his own young family.
The Ulroans teach at the Chevak school. Mary says that they are passionate about helping both their students and their children thrive academically and athletically. They also teach their children to respect the Elders. Mary is from Mountain Village, which sits on the lower Yukon River, and she remembers one piece of advice she was given when she first moved to Chevak:
"We were living with Ulrich’s grandmother, and my mother would tell me, 'Don’t ever let his grandmother clean up or do dishes. Always help her out in the house.' And that’s what I try to teach my kids," she said.
The Parents of the Year Award did not take the Ulroans completely by surprise; they were recognized at the Association of Village Council Presidents’ annual convention in September. AVCP models its awards after those given out by AFN the following month.